by Elisa Olivier-Nielsen, MA, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, EON Consulting
Choosing healthy snacks can often be a tricky business.
With so many options available nowadays when snacking, one must keep in mind their own personal goals such as weight loss, blood sugar control, muscle building, etc.
In addition, choosing a snack also can be harder and more tempting when you are hungry or faced with less healthy options.
That is where nuts can come in: They are delicious, crunchy and healthy. But, as with any snack option, you always have to know how to fit them into your eating plan.
Nutritional benefits of nuts
- High in healthful fats
- Provide additional nutrients such as protein, omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber, vitamin E, plant sterols and L-arginine.
- A Harvard study found that people with Type 2 diabetes who ate at least five, 1-ounce servings of nuts a week were less likely to develop heart disease or die from it.
- The heart-healthy benefits of nuts help lower LDL cholesterol (sometimes called “bad” cholesterol) levels, stop artery plaque development and improve the health of artery walls.
- The protein and fiber in nuts ensure satiety without raising blood sugar levels the way carbohydrates will.
How much should I eat?
While nuts contain approximately 13 to 18 g of fat per 1-ounce serving, the fat in most nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts primarily is monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
However, moderation is key!
While Americans eat an estimated 2.5 million pounds of nuts on Super Bowl Sunday, according to the Calorie Control Council and the Snack Food Association, we are advised to avoid excessive intake of nuts on a regular basis.
Nuts are still high in calories. Furthermore, the ones overly salted and honey-glazed add unnecessary sugar, sodium and calories, and they are to be avoided on a regular basis.
The recommendation is to eat nuts three to five times per week. One serving of nuts is a small handful (1/4 cup) or 1.5 ounces. For nut butters, like peanut butter, the serving size is 2 tablespoons.
Ways to add nuts to your day:
- Toast them to bring out the flavors of their natural oils.
- Add them to salads, roasted vegetables, whole grains and poached fruit.
- Make your own trail mix.
- Roast them with seeds or sea salt to make your own granola.