*[Image Goes Here]* Have Dietitians gone nuts? Despite being high in calories from fat, nuts are recommended as part of a healthy diet and can even help prevent some diseases. It is important to note the quality of fat nuts contain as well as other beneficial nutrients.
In Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating, nuts fall under “Meat Alternatives” as they are from the legume and dried bean family. For those who eat little meat, poultry, or fish or are looking for an alternative protein source, nuts are a fairly healthy choice.
A general serving size of nuts is one small handful. More specifically, a serving size of about 15 large walnut halves (45 g /~1.5 oz), 30 whole, unsalted, peanuts (1 oz) or 2 tbsp of peanut butter qualifies as one serving from Meat and Alternatives in Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating.
Walnuts and peanuts both contain high amounts of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats that help lower LDL (bad)-cholesterol. They are cholesterol free since they are a plant product and are a source of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. These are the essential fatty acids known to help protect against heart disease. Because of these heart healthy properties, unsalted walnuts and peanuts can be included as part of a cholesterol lowering diet.
Walnuts and peanuts are also a good source of protein, fibre, folate, Vitamin E, iron, zinc, selenium, sterols and other nutrients, while almonds are a good source of calcium. Several of these nutrients have been implicated as disease preventing and/or effective in improving overall health. They are also found to be lacking in the Canadian diet.
Just because nuts have healthy properties it does not mean we should eat them to our hearts content. Healthy fat or not, fat is still fat and can substantially increase the number of calories you eat in a day, even when eaten in small quantities. As you know, too many calories can lead to weight gain.
About 10 large walnut halves (1 oz / ¼ cup) provides 19.5 grams of fat. Thirty whole peanuts (1 oz) provides 14 grams of fat. If you are overweight and have trouble stopping yourself after eating a small handful of nuts, you probably shouldn’t include them in your diet everyday. If you decide to have a serving of nuts at a meal, make sure you cut back on fat from other foods. For example skip dessert or have fresh fruit instead of ice cream etc.
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For healthy living, Dietitians recommend Canadians get a variety of foods in their diet everyday. Nuts can be a delicious, satisfying and crunchy addition to a healthy diet. Try substituting a serving of nuts in place of meat once in awhile. If you have heart disease or are trying to lower your risk, make a point of including nuts in your diet more often.
Just remember you can get too much of a good thing. Eat nuts in moderation.
For some great walnut recipe ideas, visit www.walnutinfo.com.
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