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Nuts: Naughty or Nice? — By Nutritionista

December 24th, 2009 No Comments

Yes, I do realize the title of this post is suggestive. Oh, well. Also, let me clarify that I don’t ever think we should ever classify foods as bad or good (naughty or nice, etc.). I prefer examining whether foods are nutritionally dense or not. But I couldn’t resist the title since we’re so close to the holiday!

So, nuts. Nuts can be confusing, right? On the one hand, we hear all these great things about how nutritious they are. On the other hand, we read the nutrition label on a package of nuts, see the high fat and calorie content, and get a little puzzled. Aren’t nuts supposed to be good for us?

Nuts are a perfect example of why we can’t just look at fat and calories when evaluating the nutrition potential of a food. Nuts are extremely calorie dense! But guess what? They’re also extremely nutrient dense.

Check it out:

  • A quarter cup serving of walnuts has almost 95% of your recommended daily value (RDV) of omega-3 fatty acids. They’re also chock full of manganese and copper.
  • The same serving of almonds contains about 45% RDV of vitamin E and 20% RDV of vitamin B2.
  • Cashews have less fat than most nuts, and 90% of its unsaturated fat is oleic acid (the heart-healthy fat found in olive oil). They also contain zinc, iron, and biotin.
  • Pecans contain over 19 vitamins and minerals, including vitamins E and A, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, potassium, several B vitamins, and zinc.
  • The forgotten Brazil nut packs tons of nutrients, including the all-important selenium (a powerful antioxidant).

Plus, all nuts have a decent amount of protein and fiber. Because they’re so high in fat (the healthy, unsaturated kind!), they’re also really filling. A few nuts go a long way. To get the nutrients of nuts without adding tons of calories, try crushing them first before sprinkling them on salads, oatmeal, or rice. You can get more of the flavor throughout the dish without upping the calories too much. Nuts make great snacks on their own or as part of trail mix. I try to measure out a serving before I snack, though.

Just remember: If something is packed with nutrients and healthy fat, it’s also going to have a few more calories. That’s nothing to be afraid of!

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