HEALTHY EATING: Nuts get an image boost

BY CAROLYN O’NEIL

There’s a nut war going on, and it’s more than the usual squirrel battle to gather the most food before winter sets in.

Growers of almonds, peanuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts are clamoring to communicate the big health benefits in each bite.

Nuts (and seeds) are a healthy snack choice. Photo by CHRIS HUNT/AJC Special

Nuts (and seeds) are a healthy snack choice. Photo by CHRIS HUNT/AJC Special

Nuts as a category have emerged as one of the health heroes in the food world. Not too long ago nuts suffered from an image problem because of their high calorie content.

But today studies show that people who regularly eat nuts — about 1½ ounces a day, five days a week — are at much lower risk of having their arteries clog than non-nut eaters. (By they way, 11/2 ounces is a handful, not a can full.)

“Nuts have gotten a bad rap for being ‘fattening.’ The truth is nuts are nutrient powerhouses full of anti-oxidants, protein, fiber and minerals,” said registered dietitian Marisa Moore, an Atlanta spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

Nuts can also help keep your blood sugar on an even keel, and the most attention-grabbing news for calorie counters is that research also suggests that eating nuts may dampen your appetite, putting the brakes on your tendency to overindulge.

Not created equal
Just in case you hadn’t noticed, the first three letters in nutrition happen to be N-U-T, but all nuts do not contain the same nutrient benefits. So the nut world is crowded with sales pitches based on nutritional profiles.

Almonds are a particularly good source of calcium, vitamin E and fiber.

Peanuts (technically a legume) serve up five times the amount of the heart- health-promoting B vitamin folate, compared with other nuts.

Pecans are a super source of anti-oxidants, ranking higher than most other nuts.

Cashews provide copper and hazelnuts manganese, both important micro-nutrients.

Walnuts are the best nut source of omega-3 fatty acids, important for heart health and other benefits.

Chestnuts, with only 69 calories per ounce, win as the leanest nut. Most nuts clock in at about 160 to 200 calories per ounce.

Pistachios win the biggest number in a 1-ounce serving. Forty-nine nuts go a long way to satisfying your craving for a snack. Moore points out another plus: “Pistachios in the shell are the perfect slow food snack. The time it takes to open pistachios gives your brain a little extra time to realize when you’re satisfied. This helps with both portion control and ultimately weight management.”

Case for mixed nuts
So, which nut should you snack on? Toss into salads? Crush to make a breading for baked fish? They’re all good choices for different reasons. So perhaps it’s best we refer to one of the hallmarks of good nutrition, which is to enjoy a variety of foods to get a variety of benefits. Sounds like mixed nuts to me.

Happily, you can find a variety of nuts on Atlanta restaurant menus.
Here’s a sneak peek at two nutty dishes about to be introduced.

Bistro Niko (scheduled to open Thursday): Chef Gary Donlick’s French bistro-inspired salade de endives gets extra crunch and nutrition from walnuts and apples.

One Midtown Kitchen: New executive chef Drew Van Leuvan adds excitement to green pea ravioli with curried hazelnuts.

Nut notes
● The protein in nuts puts them in the “meat” category. According to the
U.S. Department of Agriculture, in meal planning, a half-ounce of nuts is equal to 1 ounce of meat.

● Studies suggest that most nuts may reduce the risk of heart disease. But it’s interesting to note that does not apply to Brazil nuts, macadamias and cashews, which are higher in saturated fats than other nuts.

● About 1 percent of the population is allergic to nuts.
Always ask the server if nuts are used in recipes and if dishes can be made nut-free.

Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and co-author of “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!” E-mail her at carolyn@carolyn
oneil.com.

Follow ajchealth on Twitter for more health news and advice.

22 comments Add your comment

JIMBOB

November 5th, 2009
1:09 pm

I could go for handful of pecans and cashews right now.

ugaaccountant

November 5th, 2009
1:19 pm

Nice, another article about a food with positive health aspects that the news media just couldn’t help but slam. People have to eat and all foods have calories. Not every food is evil.

Jack P

November 5th, 2009
1:57 pm

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm good! Pass the nuts please.

malika

November 5th, 2009
3:10 pm

if only they were more affordable. a can of pistachios without the shell cost $10 and a bag in the shell cost $5. a bag of almonds is also nearly $5. i love nuts myself, but financially when you’re on a budget, they can set you back.

JMan

November 5th, 2009
3:49 pm

Malika, I am a nuts about nuts. I buy usually buy almonds (Blue Diamond—The best) at Target. A small tin runs about 2.50 on sale. They do sell large bags which do run about $5, but the 2.50 size is fine. Other nuts are on sale about every other week. Another favorite for affordable nuts (my favorite is lightly salted whole cashews and pecans) is Trader Joe’s. Just about all the nut varieties are affordable though some more than others.

Melissa

November 5th, 2009
4:20 pm

Everything is better with nuts!! Yummy! However, I agree with Malika… they are kind of expensive!

dansfae

November 5th, 2009
6:16 pm

What happened to dry roasted mixed nuts. Does dry roasting add any benefit by lowering fat or calories?

Smokewagon

November 6th, 2009
9:32 am

Only a fool pays attention to what the government tells them to eat. I can remember when eggs were forbidden until the egg industry paid off their congressmen. Common sense tells you that nuts are a good naturally producted snack but your are better off without all the salt added during processing.

chuck allison

November 6th, 2009
6:55 pm

Egg yellows are still bad for you, like mayonaise, crescent rolls, and avocadoes. Just get a book and study which foods have the most saturated fat.

Peachstealth

November 6th, 2009
7:08 pm

They could have mentioned that in most years, Georgia leads the country in production of both peanuts and pecans.

thank you

November 7th, 2009
1:55 pm

I just started eating walnuts in my cereal about 6 weeks ago. My incidents of Irritable Bowel have been cut in HALF! I’m SOLD :)

j sutter

November 7th, 2009
5:06 pm

Nuts are a fantastic food. The exception is the nuts under our “Gold Dome”

geo

November 7th, 2009
7:52 pm

Chuck ~ Avocadoes are not bad…they have mono-unsaturated fat, as in olive oil. Eat ‘em…and eat nuts too.

Deb

November 7th, 2009
8:27 pm

Almonds help to relieve heartburn! My hubby said they work better than Tums.

Jud Williams

November 7th, 2009
10:05 pm

I keep nuts in my car all the time and enjoy munching on them on the long drive home from night classes. Helps keep me alert at the wheel of the car.

Lar David

November 8th, 2009
8:54 am

Are Those David Schwimmwer’s Dad’s Nuts?

JimC

November 8th, 2009
4:33 pm

I could just about live on cashews, I love them so much!

Staying Healthy at 70.

November 8th, 2009
5:07 pm

I love em all. But I do have a tendancy to over indulge.

Spring6A

November 8th, 2009
7:35 pm

Re thank you — I know what you mean about nuts and IBS. For me, a daily serving of mixed nuts, a slice of 12-grain bread and a small lettuce salad are key.

KJ

November 9th, 2009
5:24 pm

how about these nuts…?

Debbie

November 15th, 2009
7:56 pm

Malika, Trader Joe’s and Harry’s have the best and cheapest nuts. Very affordable at Trader Joes’s. Enjoy your nuts!

Jim

November 15th, 2009
10:48 pm

Costco seems to be the best for mixed nuts, peanuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts and pictachios at the best price.