Fear Not the Fat in Nuts!

Fear Not the Fat in Nuts!
  • Dr. Taylor Wallace
  • August 8, 2016

If you’ve been avoiding peanuts because they’re “too fattening,” it’s time to give the lovely legume – and its tree nut cousins – another look.

Nuts are a category of foods that include mostly tree nuts – such as almonds, walnuts, pecans and pistachios – as well as peanuts, which are technically a legume (such as peas, lentils and beans). Nuts are perhaps most associated with a high fat content, since 1 ounce of nuts provides about 13-22 grams of fat, depending on the nut (cashews and pistachios have the least whereas macadamias tend to be highest in fat). However almost all of the fats in nuts are unsaturated, and studies show that unsaturated fats help support heart health.

The mighty nut is also a great source protein, which makes nuts and nut butters a good choice for vegetarians, vegans, and those who support a more plant-based lifestyle. Protein is essential for muscle growth and maintenance, and is especially important for older adults dealing with age-related muscle decline (sarcopenia).

Another nutrient that nuts are known for is fiber, which is important for maintaining a healthy gut and also to reduce cholesterol (more heart-health benefits!). Americans need at least 25 grams of fiber each day, although most only get about half that amount of fiber.

And if all that isn’t enough, a new large-scale study just found that people who frequently eat nuts tend to have a reduced risk for inflammation.

All said, this isn’t an invitation to go nuts for nuts – a little goes a long way! One ounce of nuts, or 2 tablespoons of nut butter, is considered a serving. Cup your hand and whatever fits in your palm is about one serving, or 150-200 calories. Grabbing handfuls of nuts or mindlessly noshing adds up fast!

Best bet is to pair your nut snack with a fruit, vegetable or dairy food for a balanced, healthy snack. Here are a few ideas:

  • Trail mix made with mixed nuts and unsweetened dried (or dehydrated) fruit
  • Apple with peanut butter
  • Cottage cheese with coarsely chopped nuts and berries
  • Celery stalk spread with nut butter and topped with 4-5 mini chocolate morsels
  • Banana rolled in crushed nuts

Remember – all nuts have different nutrition credentials and offer various health benefits, so remember to do like the party pack and mix it up throughout the week!

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