Nuts are not just for snacking or as an added ingredient to a recipe. As nutritionists continue to educate us about what foods need to be part of our daily diets, nuts are high on the list for a variety of reasons. Beyond their nutritional value, they are easy to take along for a pick-me-up on a busy day. An ounce a day of nuts is well within most calorie-conscious meal plans. To get the most benefits, eat them raw, organic, or roast them yourself.
What are these seven nuts we need to be eating?
- Walnuts are considered the king of nuts. They benefit us by helping to fight chronic heart disease, reducing inflammation and improving blood flow. English walnuts are the variety most people eat; however, black walnuts have a distinctive taste if you don’t mind the effort required to shell them. Their shells are tough to crack (some have resorted to running over them with tractors to break the shells) and they’re likely to stain fingers.
- Hazelnuts are not just for flavoring coffee or an ingredient in Nutella®. Considered one of the least consumed nuts, one serving provides approximately 85 percent of the daily vitamin E requirement, which our skin needs. Plus, hazelnuts have half the daily requirement of magnesium, which helps with calcium levels in the body and are a good source of B vitamins. A one-ounce serving is about 23 nuts.
- Brazil nuts contain zinc, which helps with acne and skin in general. They’re loaded with minerals such as calcium, iron, copper, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. One Brazil nut contains more than the daily requirement of selenium needed for healthy thyroids. A single nut has 31 calories. Two or three servings a week are recommended.
- Pine nuts benefit us by providing pinolenic acid (an unsaturated fatty acid), which acts as an appetite-suppressing hormone. Bring on the pine nuts!
- Almonds have the highest fiber content of any nut (three grams of fiber and six grams of protein per ounce) and also help with weight loss. An ounce equates to about 23 almonds at 165 calories.
- Pecans are in the top 20 of foods with antioxidant capacity. Pecans are not just for pies! They are a good source of minerals, such as manganese for heart health, and provide 65% of the daily copper requirement. With 19 different vitamins and minerals, enjoy an ounce (about 19 halves).
- Macadamia nuts can help in reducing LDL cholesterol levels. They are rich in vitamin A, iron, and a smorgasbord of other nutrients.
How can we incorporate these nuts into our daily menu?
The beauty of consuming nuts is that they can be added to so many dishes or just eaten by themselves. Nuts add that crunch that we enjoy in yogurts and salads. Include them in sautéed veggies for a different taste. They can be blended into smoothies or ground up to make nut butters – case in point, the flavor of almond butter is exceptional. Try a quick and filling snack consisting of almond butter with dried cranberries and raisins. Raw, roasted, or as an addition to a recipe, nuts are good for us. Look for ways to add them into your food plan and enjoy their health benefits.