If you avoid eating any nuts because you think they’re too fattening, you’re wrong! Dietitians, nutritionists, and the USDA (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture) are now urging us to eat the six particular nuts I’ve covered here, not only because they can help us lose or maintain our weight, but because they are the best, most nutritious, and overall healthiest nuts, and their high “good” fats override their amount of “bad” fat.
The USDA now allows a posted claim on these six chosen nuts: “Scientific evidence suggests that eating 1.5 ounces per day of peanuts and certain tree nuts (alphabetically): almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.” Therefore, to compensate for their calories, these nuts should be eaten instead of cookies, chips and other such snacks. Also, nuts aren’t fattening if eaten in moderation.
But we actually need some fat in our food, although up to 20% of the calories in nuts are not absorbed by our bodies. Without fat, our hair and skin would be dull! In addition, it provides energy and is necessary to help our bodies absorb the fat-soluble antioxidants: Vitamin A (which includes Beta Carotene), Vitamin C and Vitamin E. The key is to eat food containing “good” fats (below).
Monounsaturated fats (good): They not only lower our total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol, but they increase our “good” HDL cholesterol and help reduce inflammation and hardening of our heart arteries, and our chances of developing heart disease. Mono fats also help us lose weight, and especially body fat! And they’ve been linked to a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Polyunsaturated fats (includes Omega 3 fatty acids) (good): They lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Omega 3 fatty acids also help lower blood pressure and our risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, fight inflammation and irregular heartbeats, and protect our brains and nervous systems.
Saturated fat (bad!): It raises our total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
Dry roasted nuts don’t have added fat, while oil roasted ones have about 10% more calories, but avoid nuts roasted in saturated fat! Honey roasted nuts also have more calories. Blanched means the skin on the nuts was removed. Unsalted nuts are preferable (no added sodium). Packaged cereals with nuts: Check and compare their sodium content!!
ROAST or TOAST YOUR NUTS YOURSELF for that enhanced flavor! To Dry Roast Spread one cup of nuts evenly on a cookie sheet and put them in a preheated 350 degree oven. Stir them occasionally until they’re lightly browned, 5-10 minutes; don’t overcook them, because they’ll keep cooking after they’re removed from the oven. (If you were to roast them in oil, you’d first coat them evenly with 1 tsp. of cooking oil. Also, you can, but shouldn’t, sprinkle on salt when they’re done.)
To Toast Put them in a heavy skillet on your stove top. Heat them slowly over a low heat 10-15 minutes, while shaking the pan (like you do with popcorn) until they’re slightly browned. Again, don’t overcook them, because they’ll keep cooking after they’re removed from the oven.
Protein: If we don’t eat enough protein, our calcium intake won’t be able to build our bones. It also helps us feel full. Our bodies do not store protein.
Antioxidant Vitamins are Vit. A (including beta carotene), C and E) The cells in our tissues normally age, but they’re also damaged by oxidation due to pollution, sunlight, alcohol and other factors. This can lead to inflammation of our tissues and cancer. Antioxidants fight this destruction. (See the beginning of my article on the four best fruits) http://voices.yahoo.com/four-best-fruits-healthiest-nutritious-31072.html?cat=5
1. Vitamin A helps our eyes adjust to changes in light, and helps our eyes, skin and mucous membranes stay moist. It promotes strong bones, helps form and maintain healthy teeth, and helps our immune systems. But too much Vitamin A can be harmful.
2. Vitamin C helps us produce the protein collagen, which makes our skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels. (Our wrinkling and sagging skin or faces result from a loss of collagen.) Vit. C also boosts our immune systems, and helps heal our scrapes, bruises and wounds, besides forming and maintaining our bones and teeth and repairing them. Without it, we’d bruise easily and get bleeding gums. As an antioxidant, it helps protect us from developing cancer, heart disease and arthritis. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t produce or store Vitamin C.
3. Vitamin E boosts our immune systems, helps alleviate fatigue, reduces inflammation, and lowers our risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, Type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis.
Magnesium, Potassium, Calcium(electrolytes!) all lower our blood pressure:
1. Magnesium fights against high blood pressure, fatigue, and even migraines, and is essential for bone strength.
2. Potassium, an essential mineral, decreases our chances of getting a stroke, developing kidney stones or osteoporosis, and helps lower our blood pressure.
3. Calcium: Without enough,our bodies cannot build bone!
Copper: If our copper levels are too low, we can get iron deficiency anemia. This antioxidant mineral helps our bodies make hemoglobin. Although liver has an extremely high copper content, some of the nuts below have good amounts, which can help us regulate our levels. We also need copper to maintain healthy bones and connective tissue.
Fiber aids digestion, helps us to feel full and maintain a healthy body weight. Besides helping to relieve or prevent constipation and diverticulosis, it can help lower our risk of diabetes and heart disease by lowering our blood cholesterol and glucose levels, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Because I found so many conflicting claims for these nuts during my initial research, I’ve focused on the USDA’s results. Also, instead of the USDA’s recommendation of 1.5 oz per day, I’ve based my statistics on their 1 oz. portions. Tip: 1/4 cup=2 ounces
ALMONDS are overall the best, healthiest, most nutritious nuts of the chosen six, based on their total of high attributes. While they don’t contain any Vitamin A or C, they have the most Vit. E ( boosts our immune systems, alleviates fatigue, lowers our risk of Type 2 diabetes & Alzheimer’s) and fiber, are #2 in potassium and protein content (peanuts have the most protein), have a good amount of poly fat, are rated third in monounsaturated fat content, and have the least saturated fat and second least amount of calories . They also have the most Calcium and Magnesium, and came in third for Potassium-great for our blood pressure: See my article on the best fruits to help lower or maintain blood pressure naturally at http://voices.yahoo.com/best-fruits-help-lower-high-blood-5798470.html?cat=5
The results of a study published in Circulation showed that people who had high blood pressure and ate a handful of almonds a day lowered their bad LDL cholesterol by 4.4%. Those who ate two handfuls lowered it by 9.4%. In addition, almonds help keep our blood sugar under control.
1 oz=23 whole almonds: Protein 6.02 g, Vit. E 7.43 mg. (Vit. A & Vit. C none). Calcium 75 mg, Magnesium 76 mg, Potassium 200 mg, Fiber 3.5 g, monounsaturated fat 8.757 g, polyunsaturated fat 3.422 g, saturated fat 1.058g. Calories 163. (There aren’t any significant nutritional changes between natural, roasted or blanched almonds.)
HONEY ROASTED Almonds (unblanched): Although their fiber and good mono fat contents actually increase, their good poly fat goes down, and their saturated fat increases. Their calcium content stays the same, but their other nutrients drop a bit, and their Vit. E disappears. Calories 168.
DRY ROASTED Almonds (Without added salt) While they lose a little protein, Vit. E and fiber, they gain a little calcium, magnesium & potassium, copper, the two “good” fats (but also saturated), and six more calories: 169.
It’s impossible to rate the other five nuts, because each has different outstanding attributes, so the rest aren’t listed in any particular order. Remember that while some of their nutrients or fats are higher or lower in comparison, they’re all superb compared with nuts not included in the USDA’s six best.
PISTACHIOS are unique. They’re super packed with antioxidants,and are the only nut that skyrockets in lutein and zeaxanthin, the only two carotenoid antioxidants that accumulate in the retinas of our eyes. While zeaxanthin protects our retinas from the damaging effects of light, lutein & zeaxanthin both reduce our risk of developing Age Related Macular Degeneration. They have 329 mcg’s of lutein & zeaxanthin, while hazelnuts only have 26, walnuts 3, the others none. (Pistachios are green due to their high amount of lutein, but vendors once used red food dye to make them more appealing.)
Pistachios also have the most selenium, an anti-inflammatory trace element that aids our immune systems and helps prevent viral infections and cancer. (Brazil nuts have an extraordinary amount of selenium-543.5 mcg in 6 nuts vs. 2.8 mcg in 49 pistachios-but they didn’t make the USDAs list of the six best, healthiest, most nutritious nuts.)
In addition, pistachios have the most Vitamin A, Beta Carotene and Potassium. They come in #2 in Vit. C and fiber, third in protein, calcium and copper, have good amounts of poly & mono fats, a low amount of saturated, and the least amount of calories. Although oils are not used during roasting, salt is often added.
1 oz=49 pistachio nuts (dry roasted, salt added): Protein 5.94 g, Vit. A 73 Int’l Units, Beta Carotene 44 mcg, Vit. C 0.9 mg, Vit. E .69 mg. Calcium 30 mg, Magnesium 31 mg, Potassium 285 mg, Fiber 2.8 g, mono fat 6.712 g, poly fat 3.813 g, saturated fat 1.547 g. Calories 160.
HAZELNUTS/FILBERS Often found in mixed drinks, these little gems are superb in antioxidant content, having the most Vit. C and coming in #2 in Vit. E. They tie with walnuts in their antioxidants Vit. A (#3) and Beta Carotene (#4); (pistachios, above, have the most). They’re also great for our blood pressure, coming in #2 in Calcium, and #3 in Magnesium and Potassium. They’re #1 in Copper, while their mono fat content is the soaring highest, and they have the second to the least amount of saturated fat. They’re #3 in fiber, but have the second lowest amount of protein. They also came in third in Folate, an essential B-complex vitamin that’s rare in nuts (see peanuts, below).
1 oz=21 hazelnuts: Protein 4.24 g, Vit. A 6 Int’l Units, Beta Carotene 3 mcg, Vit. C 1.8 mg and Vit. E 4.26 mg. Calcium 32 mg, Magnesium 46 mg, Potassium 193 mg, Fiber 2.7 g, mono fat 12.942, poly fat 2.245 g, saturated fat 1.266 g, folate 32 mcg. Calories 178
PEANUTS dry-roasted, without salt (they’re actually a legume, not a nut!) Surprisingly, these munchies definitely rival the other five best, healthiest, most nutritious nuts chosen by the USDA! They’re just as heart-healthy overall, and contain resveratrol, the same flavonoid sought from red grapes and red wine (although peanuts have far less).
A study published in Food Chemistry shows that peanuts have a high concentration of antioxidant polyphenols (p-coumaric acid), and when peanuts are roasted, their overall antioxidant content can be boosted by as much as 22%.
In addition, an Iowa Women’s health study showed that “risk of death from cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases showed strong and consistent reductions with increasing nut/peanut butter consumption. Total death rates decreased 11% and 19% for nut/peanut butter intake once per week and 1-4 times per week, respectively.”
Peanuts have the highest amount of protein, the third least calories, and the absolute highest amount of Folate (folic acid), a water-soluble B-complex vitamin that is rare in nuts . Inadequate levels can lead to dementia, cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, autism & depression. (See more about Folate near the end of my article on the Four Best Fruits) http://voices.yahoo.com/four-best-fruits-healthiest-nutritious-31072.html?cat=5
They came in #2 in Selenium (aids our immune systems; helps prevent viral infections and cancer) and Magnesium (blood pressure), and #3 in Vit. E (antioxidant). They also rate #3 in poly fat, with an average amount of mono fat (but they’re the highest in sat.).
1 oz=approximately 34 shelled peanuts (28.35 g) Protein 6.71 g, Vit. E 1.96 mg, Calcium mg, Magnesium 50 mg, Potassium 187 mg, Fiber 2.3 g, mono fat 6.985 g, poly fat 4.449 g, saturated fat 1.954 g, folate 41 mcg. Calories 166.
PEANUT BUTTER (smooth style, without salt) READ THIS! Peanut butter actually has more protein, Vit. E, potassium, and mono & poly fats than peanuts! However, its calcium, selenium and folate drop a bit, and its sat fats & calories are increased.
Nowadays there are healthier brands and varieties to choose from! Read the labels and compare their amounts of sodium, sugar, trans fat and hydrogenated oil. Some add a bit of hydrogenated oil to prevent separation. Here’s a sample comparison of creamy peanut butters. 1 oz=2 tablespoons
Skippy regular: Sat. fat 3g, Sugar 3g, Sodium 150mg, calories 190 Versus
Skippy reduced fat: Sat. fat 2g, Sugar 4g, Sodium 170 mg, calories 180. (Reduced has less sat. fat and calories, but more sugar and sodium.) Neither has trans fat, but both have a bit of hydrogenated oil to prevent separation.
Smucker’s Natural, Sat. fat 2.5g, Sugar 1g, Sodium 105mg, calories 200. No trans/hydro.
Mara Natha Organic Sat. fat 2g, Sugar 1%, Sodium 60mg (sea salt), calories 180. No trans/hydro.
Smart Balance Rich Roast Sat. fat 3g, Sugar 0, Sodium 145g, Calories 190. No trans/hydro
Roundy’s regular Sat fat 3.5g, Sugar 3 g, Sodium 150mg, 200 calories. No trans, but hydro to prevent separation.
Roundy’s natural Sat. fat 3g, Sugar 1%, Sodium 120mg, 200 calories. No trans/hydro
Roundy’s unsalted organic Sat. fat 2g, Sugar 1%, Sodium 0, Calories 180. No trans/hydro.
WALNUTS: Besides having the whopping highest amount of polyunsaturated “good” fat, they are the only nut with extremely high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, according to the American Dietetic Assn. (Flax seed has the best for seeds.) Also, walnuts contain relatively high levels of l-arginine, an essential amino acid that can help fight hypertension. Walnuts tied with hazelnuts in their antioxidants Vit. A (#3) and Beta Carotene (#4); (pistachios, above, have the most). In addition, walnuts came in #2 in Copper content, are #3 in Magnesium and 4th in Protein. They also came in #3 in selenium, and folate (see above, peanuts #1 in folate, and hazelnuts #2).
A Clinical Nutrition journal published results showing that eating walnuts can lower our LDL cholesterol by 9 to 10%. A Dietetic Association journal showed that walnuts can diminish the extent of heart damage after a heart attack. And another study showed that eating a walnut-rich diet, besides lowering our dangerous LDL cholesterol, could lower our lipoprotein cholesterol, thus lowering our risk of developing blood clots, which could cause atherosclerosis.
1 oz=7 walnuts: Protein 4.32 g, Vit. A 6 Int’l Units, Beta Carotene 3 mcg, Vit. E .20 mg, Calcium .28 mg, Magnesium .45 mg, Potassium 125 mg, Fiber 1.0 g, mono fat 2.533g, poly fat 13.374 g, saturated fat 1.737 g, folate 14 mcg, selenium 1.4 mcg. Calories 185
PECANS Besides coming in with a high #2 in their antioxidant Vit. A and Beta Carotene contents, pecans also came in #2 in both their mono and poly fat contents. Their other attributes are about average within these six best, healthiest, most nutritious nuts chosen by the USDA, dietitians and nutritionists. But believe me, that not only means that they taste good, but they’re good for you. Also, they came in #3 in fiber.
1 oz=19 halves pecans: Protein 2.60 g, Vit. A 16 Int’l Units, Beta Carotene 8 mcg, Vit. E 0.40 mg, Calcium 0.3 mg, Magnesium 34 mg, Potassium 116 mg, Fiber 2.7 g, mono fat 11.567 g, poly fat 6.128 g, saturated fat 1.752 g, folate 6 mcg, selenium 1.1 mcg. Calories 196
Nuts not chosen: Despite their health benefits, other nuts weren’t chosen by the USDA either due to their lack of overall nutrition or their ratio of bad fat content. These include Brazil nuts (have great, astronomical amount of Selenium: 543.5 mcg), Cashews and Macadamia Nuts.
Ideas for using nuts: Chop or sliver them to sprinkle into cereals, yogurt, salads, pancakes & muffins, steamed or sautéed vegetables & rice and chicken dishes, or eat them straight.
In conclusion: The next time you’re looking for gifts for those you care about, include one or all six of these nuts, and assure them that they’re the best, healthiest, most nutritious ones available. If they ask why, go ahead; tell them these were chosen not only by the USDA, but also by nutritionists and dietitians. But make sure you buy some for yourself, too! From my home to yours, enjoy…