Healthy Cook: Going nuts for better nutrition and weight loss


Being a health nut is a lifestyle people will want to embrace for the New Year – literally. Study after study for reducing heart disease risk, improving the body’s reaction to stress, and better glycemic control in Type-2 diabetes, concludes with the benefits of nuts.

So why nuts?

Studies have shown that all kinds of nuts have a beneficial effect on lipids (cholesterol) and reduce the risk of heart disease,” says Roberta Brocker, RD, CDE, LD/N, certified diabetes educator, registered dietitian, of Winter Haven Hospital.

Different nuts have different nutritional qualities. For example, walnuts are the only nuts with significant omega-3 fatty acids and the pistachio’s distinctive green means the nut contains antioxidants. Nuts also provide much needed dietary fiber.

But before you grab a fistful, you need to know how to fit nuts into your diet. Otherwise, you could be adding excessive calories without the anticipated health halo.

Nuts should substitute for less healthful ingredients, as nutrition research shows.

A recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health called for replacing red meat with nuts, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods.

Brocker says, “Nuts are high in calories, so it’s best to eat them in place of other foods. For example, snack on a handful of nuts rather than chips or cookies.”

  • Almonds, 1 oz (24-28) =170 calories

  • Cashews, 1 oz (14-18) =185 calories

  • Peanuts, 1 oz (about ¼ cup) = 160 calories (these are not technically nuts, rather they are legumes like beans, peas and lentils, although they have the same nutritional attributes as “tree” nuts.

  • Pecans (about 25) = 195 calories

  • Pistachios, 1 oz (45) =170 calories

  • Walnuts (13-15 halves) = 180 calories

  • Peanut butter, 1 tablespoon = 100 calories. It’s best to buy the natural style peanuts, which are usually ground peanuts and do not have any partially hydrogenated oil added.

Nuts contain heart healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Most of the calories in nuts come from fat, although they have protein as well and B vitamins (notably folate), vitamin E, phytochemicals, phytosterols, and antioxidants,” Brocker says.

Although current studies emphasize walnuts and pistachios, and you might be inclined to stick with those nuts, experts suggest otherwise. Different nuts have different nutrition benefits, so it makes sense to consume a variety.

Brocker explains, “Nuts as a part of an overall healthy diet can also play a role in stress reduction. Of course, there are many other components to reducing stress such as proper amounts of sleep, exercise, realistic expectations, recreation etc.”

Along with weight loss and good heart health, Type-2 Diabetes is another area where nuts can be beneficial. Brocker states, “A healthy diet is essential to the successful treatment of diabetes. At Winter Haven Hospital we have classes in diabetes self management training. People are taught which foods have the largest impact on blood glucose levels as well as how to eat heart healthy foods.”

The following recipe mixes walnuts and pistachios with turkey for a delicious, wholesome entrée salad.

Nutty Spinach, Turkey and Orange Salad

7 cups fresh baby spinach

1 medium navel orange or large tangerine, peeled, cut into bite-size pieces

1 heaping cup cooked, diced turkey breast

2 scallions, trimmed and chopped

1/4 cup shelled roasted, salted pistachios

1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1/4 cup orange juice

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon mild-tasting olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon each: curry powder, smoked paprika and pepper

Combine spinach, orange, turkey, scallions, pistachios, and walnuts in large salad bowl. Combine juice, vinegar, oil, salt, curry powder, paprika and pepper in small bowl. Stir well. Pour over salad just before serving. Toss gently but well.

Makes 4 servings.

Each serving has: 232 calories; 13.5 grams total fat; 16 grams protein; 12 grams carbohydrates; 30 milligrams cholesterol; 385.5 milligrams sodium; and 3.5 grams dietary fiber.


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