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Go Nuts!

Bowl of mixed nuts

Growing up, nut consumption always came with the recommendation to watch out for the high fat content. And that recommendation hasn’t changed.  Nuts are still high in fat and calories. But today we know that many health benefits are accrued from eating nuts, although quantity-wise we still need to watch portion size.

Health Benefits

Researchers have found that eating an ounce of nuts five or more times per week results in a 14 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease (defined as a heart attack, stroke, or death from cardiovascular disease) and a 20 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease (defined as a fatal or nonfatal heart attack or stroke).

In addition, that same nut-eating regimen (5x per week) may reduce your risk for developing diabetes by up to 27 percent. What do nuts possess that help lower your risk for those two chronic diseases?

  • Nuts are good sources of protein, fiber, antioxidants, phytosterols, and minerals.
  • The arginine in nuts significantly improves endothelial function (dilation of blood vessels increases blood flow).
  • Nuts improve cholesterol profiles—specifically reducing LDL (bad cholesterol).
  • Nut consumption yields a minimal glycemic response.
  • Nuts aid in weight maintenance because the high-fat content results in higher levels of satiety.
  • Nuts have anti-inflammatory effects that may help to prevent insulin resistance.
  • Nuts are an important part of a diabetes-reversal diet.

Researchers from the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy estimate that in 2012 over 300,000 deaths from heart disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes were associated with eating too little of 10 nutrient-rich foods, of which nuts was one.

In addition, a 2013 Harvard study found that people who ate nuts every day lived longer, healthier lives than people who didn’t eat nuts. They found that nut eaters were less likely to die of cancer, heart disease, and/or respiratory disease than those who didn’t eat nuts.

The following chart from the USDA shows in detail a breakdown of the calorie and fat content found in a variety of nut products:

Nut and seed sources of healthy fats

Nuts and seeds contain mixtures of fats, including monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and omega-3 fatty acids, along with saturated fat. Although saturated fat is generally regarded as a less healthful form of fat, it is more than balanced out in plant-based foods by the higher levels of healthy fats.
Food (1 ounce) Calories Total fat Saturated fat Mono-un-saturates Poly-un-saturates Omega-3s
Almonds 169 15 g 1 g 10 g 4 g 0 mg
Brazil nuts 185 19 g 4 g 7 g 6 g 5 mg
Cashews 155 12 g 2 g 7 g 2 g 17 mg
Chia seeds 137 9 g 1 g 1 g 7 g 4,915 mg
Flaxseeds 150 12 g 1 g 2 g 8 g 6,388 mg
Hazelnuts 181 18 g 1 g 13 g 2 g 17 mg
Hemp seeds 160 12 g 1 g 1 g 9 g 2,264 mg
Macadamia nuts 203 22 g 3 g 17 g 0 g 55 mg
Peanuts 164 14 g 2 g 7 g 4 g 1 mg
Pecans 199 21 g 2 g 12 g 6 g 278 mg
Pine nuts 190 19 g 1 g 5 g 10 g 32 mg
Pistachios 157 13 g 2 g 7 g 4 g 72 mg
Pumpkin seeds 153 13 g 3 g 4 g 6 g 51 mg
Sesame seeds 160 14 2 g 5 g 6 g 105 mg
Sunflower seeds 163 14 g 2 g 3 g 9 g 19 mg
Walnuts 185 18 g 2 g 3 g 13 g 2,565 mg
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

 

Written by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

 Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/nuts/art-20046635

https://www.nuthealth.org/

https://www.consumerreports.org/nuts/are-nuts-good-for-you/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/nutrition/why-nutritionists-are-crazy-about-nuts

 

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