What do Snooki, Levi Johnston, and pistachios have in common? They are all part of the campaign to entice people to eat more nuts. Nuts have always been a stable snack food at the local pub but now there is research showing small quantities of nuts can have health benefits. Nuts contain some fat but in most cases it is the healthy fat (monounsaturated) which helps to lower LDL or the "bad" cholesterol. There are other potential health benefits from nuts. They provide fiber, protein, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. In some research they have been shown to reduce blood pressure, aid in keeping the heart healthy and decrease some effects of metabolic syndrome. Besides their health benefits, nuts help to keep you feeling full longer because of the high amount of fats most contain, which can lead to you eating less at meals.
One type of nut does not necessarily have more health benefits then another however there is benefits that differentiate nuts. There are many different types of nuts but probably the most well known are peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans and cashews.
While the peanut may have fewer health benefits than other nuts mentioned it is still a better snack option than a bag of greasy potato chips or a chocolate bar. Spreading peanut butter over an apple or celery can add protein and fat that helps increase the feeling of fullness more than just either of those foods eaten alone.
This nut has been shown to aid in boosting the immune system and plays a role in skin health which may be attributed to the high amount of vitamin E.
Walnuts are a great snack idea to pair with a piece of fruit and provide the extra health benefit of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help to reduce inflammation and decrease the risk of some chronic diseases.
These nuts are packed with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that all play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy body.
Want more antioxidants than any other nut? Try pistachios, which help protect the body against free radical damage.
Like pistachios, cashews have lots of vitamins and minerals that keep the body healthy.
With all the health benefits of these different types of nuts, it is easy to see that a combination of all different types of nuts in moderation can have great health benefits. A great way to add nuts into the diet is to make homemade trail mix with raw or slightly roasted mixed nuts. Avoid eating nuts that are coated in sugar or salt since these additions take away from many of the health benefits of the raw nut. Another tip to consider when adding nuts into the diet is to have only 1 to 1.5 oz a day since nuts are a calorie dense food.
One downfall of nuts is that many people have food allergies to tree nuts or peanuts. If this is the case avoid them and get the health benefits provided by nuts through other dietary practices. The next time you need a little pick me up to get you through the mid afternoon hunger period try a handful of mixed nuts and feel good about your snacking choice.
Grete R. Hornstrom is a Clinical Dietitian who is currently specializing in pediatric care. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Physical Education with a concentration in Exercise Science from Kent State University, a Master of Arts in Wellness Management from Ball State University, and a Master of Science in Dietetics from Ball State University. She has worked with overweight children and adults, recreational and elite athletes, chronically ill children, and every day people on developing nutrition plans and healthy lifestyle changes. In addition she has worked with recreational teams, high school teams, and college teams educating them on the importance of nutrition and performance. She has completed one marathon and three half marathons in the last two years. Her newest sport of choice is cycling.