Monday, January 02, 2006

Nuts. All they're cracked up to be!

Have you been told to avoid nuts because of the high fat content?

Nutritionists say you can eat those glistening Marcona almonds, crunchy blistered peanuts, spicy walnuts and even big fat Brazil nuts without fear of artery-clogging paybacks down the line. In fact, nuts can actually make you healthier. And, unless you gobble handfuls on top of your usual chow, they won’t make you fat.

"The data on nuts are really amazing," says Penny Kris-Etherton, an expert on lipids and heart disease at Penn State University.

Ongoing studies continue to confirm that nuts, like olive oil, fish and other Mediterranean-diet foods high in unsaturated fats, are better for your heart than the refined pastas and refined carbs of low-fat diets. That’s because unsaturated fats keep your good cholesterol high, while reducing bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood; low-fat diets reduce good cholesterol as well as the bad kind, and also raise triglycerides.

One new analysis shows that consumption of approximately 1.5-3.5 servings of nuts > or = 5 times/wk as part of a heart-healthy diet with total fat content (high in mono- and/or polyunsaturated fatty acids) of approximately 35% of calories may significantly decrease total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in individuals with normal and high cholesterol.

The healthiest nut? Well, that's still open to debate, but it would be hard to beat the almond. Ounce for ounce, almonds are the most nutritionally dense nut.

So, I suggest adding a handful of nuts, about one-quarter cup, or 200 calories, daily, and start reaping the benefits.

Scroll down this page and click on the the January 15, 2004 video link for an interview with a physician on what nuts to consume. (Of course, a broadband connection is always helpful.)

Try the Fiesta Rice and Beans with Almonds.

Buying and storing:

1. To reap the benefits of nuts, choose and store them carefully.
Heat, air and light damage nuts fragile fatty acids, and rancidity sets in long before you can taste or smell the “off” flavor, so it’s important to buy nuts as fresh as possible.

2. Buy nuts in their shell if you can, as the shell protects them from these environmental “hazards.” If that is not possible, purchase them in vacuum sealed opaque packaging that protects them from air and light.

3. If you buy nuts and seeds in bulk, go to a busy store that has a high turnover rate, so the nuts you bring home will not have been sitting in the bins for too long—exposed to room temperature, air and light. Some natural food stores keep their nuts in a refrigerated section, which is an ideal way to protect them.

4. After purchasing, do not let your nuts sit in a hot car and when you get them home, store in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer and enjoy them raw or lightly roasted at 160-170 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes.



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