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The Nutritional Guide to Snacking on Nuts

Dec 11, 2009

Packed with protein and healthy fats, nuts make an excellent snack! Here's a nutritional guide to some popular nuts.

Almonds

Almonds are an excellent snacking choice. Among their benefits:

  • Phytochemicals: Almonds are a great source of these compounds, which protect against cardiovascular (heart) disease and cancer. One researcher claims that almonds contain a wider array of phytochemicals than any other food source.
  • Calcium: An ounce of almonds (about 20 to 25 almonds) contains as much calcium as 1/4 cup of milk.
  • Vitamin E: Almonds are the best whole-food source of this vitamin (an ounce of almonds contains 35% of your daily allowance). Vitamin E is an antioxidant with cancer-fighting properties.
  • Phosphorus, zinc, folic acid and fiber: Yes, almonds are a great source of all these!

Walnuts

Walnuts are another heart-healthy snacking choice. A 2004 Journal of Nutrition study showed that walnut consumption had beneficial effects on cholesterol levels and C-reactive protein levels (which is an indication of heart disease risk).

  • Participants eating an ounce of walnuts each day, along with a teaspoon of walnut oil and a teaspoon of flaxseed oil, reduced their C-reactive protein levels 75%.
  • Walnuts (along with pecans and chestnuts) have the highest antioxidant levels of any tree nuts.
  • Eating just a handful of walnuts 4 times weekly can reduce your risk of coronary disease.

Pistachios

You're probably getting the idea by now that nuts are heart-healthy - and you're right. Pistachios are yet another nut that can benefit your heart.

  • A 2006 study showed that after just 3 weeks on a diet including pistachios, participants saw significant decreases in total and LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, and increases in HDL ("good") cholesterol.
  • Arginine is found abundantly in pistachios. What's arginine?  It's a substance that produces nitric oxide in the blood, and this prevents damaging build-up along artery walls.
  • Pistachios are also an excellent source of protein, fiber and healthy fats, all of which contribute to helping you feel full and avoid overeating.
  • Pistachios also provide phosphorus, manganese and copper, which are important for strengthening your bones.

Peanuts

They're probably the most common nut, but don't overlook peanuts - they're are an excellent snacking choice as well.

  • Peanuts contain more protein than any other legume or nut. This makes them an especially good food choice for vegetarians and children.
  • Just one ounce of peanuts (a small handful) contains 9% of your daily fiber allotment and 16% of your daily requirement of antioxidant vitamin E.
  • Peanuts can help you stick to your diet. A Harvard Medical School study found that 3 times as many participants were able to stick to their diets when they included peanuts as part of their daily food. This is most likely because of peanuts' high levels of fiber, protein and healthy fats, which contribute to feelings of satiety.

Nuts as a Snack:  Is There a Downside?

After reading about all of nuts' benefits, you may be wondering if there is any downside to snacking on nuts. The short answer: not really. Nuts do tend to be high in calories. However, their high fiber content tends to make you feel full after eating just a small amount. You may want to snack slowly on nuts to ensure that your body will feel full before you've eaten more calories than you meant to.

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