Nuts can seem like forbidden fruit to dieters. A heaping handful might contain up to 10% of the daily caloric needs for a medium-sized man. And the generous dusting of salt on packaged snack nuts says "beware" to anyone trying to control high blood pressure.
But nuts are worth the "risks" if you know how to eat them. Nuts are a good source of key nutrients, healthy fats, and protein. They can jazz up salads and side dishes, adding crunchy flavor.
The key is to consume nuts in a way that delivers health benefits without the weight gain. That means limiting portions and eating nuts instead of, not in addition to, certain other foods. Nuts are a great source of good fats and protein
A one-ounce portion of nuts is roughly a quarter-cup. For almonds, that's about 18 to 22 individual nuts, packing 168 calories. Nuts are low in saturated fat, so consuming them instead of animal protein sources can help to lower your LDL ("bad") cholesterol. They contribute fiber, potassium, and calcium to your diet.
Although nuts are a healthy protein, you can't simply substitute nuts for meat, ounce for ounce. If you did, your waistline would pay a steep price. For example, a lean 4-ounce chicken filet has around 100 calories, but 4 ounces of walnuts contains 740 calories.
However, substituting a 1-ounce portion of nuts for equivalent small portions of red and processed meat is a good move, according to major based at the Harvard School of Public Health.
In the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, men who ate meat-rich diets tended to die younger (mostly from cancer and heart disease). But for each serving of meat replaced with a serving of nuts, the risk of premature death dropped 20%, compared with that of men who continued to eat meat.
The message is not that you should ban meat completely from your diet. Instead, try to favor lean poultry over red meat—especially cured or smoked meats—and consume moderate amounts of nuts instead of meat a few times a week.
The Bottom Line
Eating nuts on a regular basis may improve your health in many ways, such as by reducing diabetes and heart disease risk, as well as cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
This nutritious high-fiber treat may even aid weight loss — despite its high calorie count.
As long as you eat them in moderation, nuts make for a tasty addition to a healthy, balanced diet.
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