Go Nuts Over Nuts
View All Section Pages
While many people have the misconception that nuts are “bad” because they are calorically-dense, science has shown regular nut consumption may improve heart health, prevent weight gain and help with glycemic control.
Health Benefits of Nuts
- Heart Health: According to a recent study from 2019, eating nuts on a regular basis may improve heart health. In this study, researchers examined nut consumption in women from the Nurses’ Health Study and men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. It was discovered that those who ate five or more 1-ounce servings of nuts each week had a 17 percent lower risk of developing heart disease and a 34 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease than those who consumed less than one serving of nuts each week.
- Weight Maintenance: Another 2019 study suggests eating more nuts may help with weight maintenance. This study also examined nut consumption in women from the Nurses’ Health Study and men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study were examined. Researchers found that increased nut consumption was associated with less weight gain.
- Glycemic Control: Finally, a 2018 study determined increased nut consumption helps with glycemic control. Researchers evaluated participants from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found HbA1c (average blood glucose level over a two-to-three-month period) was 0.68 percent lower and glucose levels two hours after a meal were 30 mg/dL lower in those who ate more nuts and maintained a healthy weight range.
You Can’t Spell “Nutrients” without “Nuts”
Nuts are nutrient-dense foods providing a wide variety of health benefits. Nuts are an excellent source of monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, protein and fiber, as well as numerous vitamins and minerals.
- Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are known as the “healthy fats” because they help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol and raise HDL “good” cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is known as the “bad” cholesterol because it contributes to developing atherosclerosis (fat buildup on the walls of arteries), while HDL cholesterol is known as the “good” cholesterol because it helps prevent atherosclerosis.
- Protein is essential for cell growth, repair and maintenance. The cells in your body are constantly turning over; meaning, they are constantly being broken down, repaired and replaced with new cells. Without adequate protein in your diet, your body is not be able to perform these functions necessary to maintain muscle mass.
- Fiber is another component of nuts that is beneficial to your health. The soluble fiber in nuts is fermented in your large intestine, resulting in energy, while the insoluble fiber remains undigested in your large intestine and assists with gut health through exfoliating properties and by adding bulk to your stool. In addition to providing energy and assisting with gut health, fiber also helps with weight management by keeping you full.
How to be a Health Nut
If you want to be a “health nut,” try the following tips listed below to incorporate one serving (1 ounce) of nuts into your diet most days. Keep in mind that a 1-ounce serving (about ¼ cup) can have between 160 to 200 calories, so it is important to be portion conscious!
- Breakfast: Add nuts to your favorite cereal, yogurt or oatmeal for extra flavor and crunch
- Smoothies: Add nuts to your smoothie (tip: soak nuts in water before adding them to your smoothie so they are easier to blend)
- Side Dishes: Add chopped nuts to side dishes such as green beans, roasted sweet potatoes, sautéed spinach, brown rice or quinoa (tip: almonds go well with green beans; pecans pair perfectly with sweet potatoes; pine nuts go well with spinach)
- Salad Dressings: Add chopped nuts to salad dressings (tip: peanuts bring out the flavors of sesame oil and rice vinegar; walnuts go well with vinaigrette)
- Breading for Fish or Chicken: Grind nuts and mix them with breadcrumbs to bread your fish or chicken
Regular nut consumption may improve your heart health, help you maintain a healthy weight and help you control your blood glucose levels, all of which are known to improve overall health and well-being. Enjoy nuts in your diet every day—but don’t go nuts! A 1-ounce serving of nuts per day is sufficient to provide you with a wide variety of health benefits and nutrients.
To schedule a one-on-one consultation or learn more about Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, visit cooperclinicnutrition.com or call 972.560.2655.
Article provided by Sheridan Samberson, Texas Woman's University dietetic student, and Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.