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  Category: Articles » Health & Fitness » Nutrition » Article

Go Nuts with Nuts

By Doran Roggio

Nearly all nuts are a great health food. They are an excellent source of protein. A handful of nuts will energize you and are power-packed with nutrients. Nuts in general, and peanuts in particular, are high in the bioflavonoid 'resveratrol'. This bioflavonoid has a number of beneficial health effects, such as anti-cancer, antiviral, anti-aging, and is believed to help prevent the formation of arterial plaques. Adding nuts to a balanced, healthful diet can aid in the prevention of heart disease.

Varieties and Benefits

+ Almonds: Almonds are packed with nutrition. Besides a good source of vegetable protein, almonds are high in riboflavin and fiber, folic acid, iron, zinc, thiamin, niacin, magnesium, plus is rich in potassium, manganese, copper and the antioxidants vitamin E and selenium. Almonds are an excellent source of calcium, containing nearly as much calcium in a quarter cup of almonds as there is in a quarter cup of milk.

Almonds offer the most nutrition eaten raw but have a crunchier and more enhanced flavor when roasted. Almonds blend well with both spicy and sweet foods, so be creative. Use almonds in appetizers, side dishes and or main entrees.

+ Peanuts: Peanuts are actually a legume. Peanuts are high in protein and a great source of energy. They contain niacin (B3) and vitamin E. One ounce of peanuts contains about 9% of the fiber you need each day. Peanuts are rich in antioxidants which aid in preventing heart disease and cancer.

+ Hazelnuts: Hazelnuts are rich in vitamin E and are a useful source of thiamine (enhances energy) and vitamin B6. They are a good source of protein, fiber, iron, calcium and potassium. Although hazelnuts are high in fat, they contain no cholesterol. Like other varieties of nuts, hazelnuts also contain antioxidant properties.

Since these nuts are relatively high in fat, include one serving of hazelnuts in the diet no more than three times per week. More than other varieties is it important to replace other dietary fats with these nuts rather than just adding them to your diet.

+ Pecans: Over 90% of the fat found in pecans is unsaturated (heart healthy fat). Pecans therefore are an important health food. Just a handful of pecans contains vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, fiber, and more antioxidants than any other nut. Because these nuts are so rich in heart-healthy fat, it doesn't take many to feel full.

+ Pistachios: The pistachio is a member of the cashew family. As with other nuts, pistachios are associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Pistachios are available roasted and salted in their shells, which are often dyed red and are generally available year-round. About 30 pistachios contains a good source of protein, Vitamin B6, Thiamine, and fiber.

+ Walnuts: The walnut is at the top of the list for health benefits. It's a great source of the healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids, which have been found to protect the heart, promote better cognitive function, and provide anti-inflammatory benefits for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema and psoriasis. Walnuts are one of the best plant sources of protein. They are rich in fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, and antioxidants.

+ Macadamia: Macadamia nuts are a good source of protein, fiber, and Thiamine. They are very high in fat and 1 ounce of macadamia nuts contains 204 calories, so especially should you substitute macadamia nuts for another high calorie food instead of merely adding them to your diet. Macadamia nuts are sweet and crunchy and can be added to salads, stews, rice dishes, and desserts.

+ Cashews: Cashews are lower in fats than most nuts and approximately 75% of their fat is unsaturated fatty acids, plus about 75% of this unsaturated fatty acid content is oleic acid, the same heart-healthy monounsaturated fat found in olive oil. Cashews contain magnesium, zinc, iron and biotin and phosphorus. They are also rich in copper which is plays an important role in antioxidant defenses, energy production, healthy bones and blood vessels.

+ Brazil Nuts: Brazil nuts are high in protein, fiber, healthy monounsaturated fats, zinc, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and selenium.

Brazil nuts taste rich and creamy, and their meat is similar in texture to coconut. These nuts can be eaten raw, roasted and salted.

A Little Goes A Long Way

The key to deriving the most heart-healthy benefits from nuts is to create ways to incorporate a variety of nuts into a low-fat diet. Substitute nuts for other high calorie, often less nutritious, foods instead of just adding additional calories. Eating a variety of nuts is a sure way to add many health benefits to your diet.
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