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heart attacks. Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in
many kinds of fish, but nuts are one of the best plant-
based sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Fiber. All nuts contain fiber, which helps lower your
cholesterol. Fiber also makes you feel full, so you eat
less. Fiber is also thought to play a role in preventing
diabetes.
Vitamin E. Vitamin E may help stop the development
of plaques in your arteries, which can narrow them.
Plaque development in your arteries can lead to chest
pain, coronary artery disease or a heart attack.
Plant sterols. Some nuts contain plant sterols, a
substance that can help lower your cholesterol. Plant
sterols are often added to products like margarine and
orange juice for additional health benefits, but sterols
occur naturally in nuts.
L-arginine. Nuts are also a source of l-arginine, which
is a substance that may help improve the health of your
artery walls by making them more flexible and less
prone to blood clots that can block blood flow.
What amount of nuts is
considered healthy?
Nuts contain a lot of fat; as much as 80 percent of a nut
is fat. Even though most of this fat is healthy fat, it’s
still a lot of calories. That’s why you should eat nuts in
moderation. Ideally, you should use nuts as a substitute
for saturated fats, such as those found in meats, eggs
and dairy products.
Instead of eating unhealthy saturated fats, try
substituting a handful of nuts. According to the Food
and Drug Administration, eating about a handful (1.5
ounces, or 42.5 grams) a day of most nuts, such as
almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts,
pistachio nuts and walnuts, may reduce your risk of
heart disease. But again, do this as part of a heart-
healthy diet. Just eating nuts and not cutting back on
saturated fats found in many dairy and meat products
won’t do your heart any good.
Here’s some nutrition information on common types of nuts. All calorie and
fat content measurements are for 1 ounce, or 28.4 grams (g), of unsalted nuts.
Type of nut
Calories Total fat
(saturated/unsaturated fat)*
Almonds, raw
163
14 g (1.1 g/12.2 g)
Almonds, dry roasted
169
15 g (1.1 g/12.9 g)
Brazil nuts, raw
186
19 g (4.3 g/12.8 g)
Cashews, dry roasted
163
13.1 g (2.6 g/10 g)
Chestnuts, roasted
69
0.6 g (0.1 g/0.5 g)
Hazelnuts (filberts), raw
178
17 g (1.3 g/15.2 g)
Hazelnuts (filberts), dry roasted 183
17.7 g (1.3 g/15.6 g)
Macadamia nuts, raw
204
21.5 g (3.4 g/17.1 g)
Macadamia nuts, dry roasted
204
21.6 g (3.4 g/17.2 g)
Peanuts, dry roasted
166
14 g (2g/11.4 g)
Pecans, dry roasted
201
21 g (1.8 g/18.3 g)
Pistachios, dry roasted
161
12.7 g (1.6 g/10.5 g)
Walnuts, halved
185
18.5 g (1.7 g/15.9 g)
*The saturated and unsaturated fat contents in each nut may not add up to the total fat content because
the fat value may also include some nonfatty acid material, such as sugars or phosphates.
Does it matter what kind of nuts you eat?
Possibly. Most nuts appear to be generally healthy, though some
more so than others. Walnuts are one of the best-studied nuts,
and it’s been shown they contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty
acids. Almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts and pecans are other
nuts that appear to be quite heart healthy. Even peanuts — which
are technically not a nut, but a legume, like beans — seem to be
relatively healthy. Coconut, which is technically a fruit, may be
considered by some to be a nut, but it doesn’t seem to have heart-
healthy benefits. Both coconut meat and oil don’t have the benefits
of the mono- and polyunsaturated fats.
Keep in mind, you could end up canceling out the heart-healthy
benefits of nuts if they’re covered with chocolate, sugar or salt.
How about nut oils?
Are they healthy, too?
Nut oils are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin
E, but they lack the fiber found in whole nuts. Walnut oil is
the highest in omega-3s. Nut oils contain saturated as well as
unsaturated fats. Consider using nut oils in homemade salad
dressing or in cooking. When cooking with nut oils, remember
that they respond differently to heat than do vegetable oils. Nut
oil, if overheated, can become bitter. Just like with nuts, use nut oil
in moderation, as the oils are high in fat and calories.
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