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Nuts about nuts? Have a handful…every day!

Number of nuts per ounce or handful. 1-2 ounces (30 to 60 grams) of nuts should be consumed daily to gain the maximum health benefits.
Number of nuts per ounce or handful. 1-2 ounces (30 to 60 grams) of nuts should be consumed daily to gain the maximum health benefits.
Joyce E.M. Wall

Studies have shown that eating nuts dramatically improves health. Nut consumption significantly lowers the risk of heart disease. The Adventist Health Study, comprised of 31,000 Californian Seventh Day Adventists, was conducted at Loma Linda University, California. The reports of the study indicated that people who ate nuts on a daily basis had an estimated 60% fewer heart attacks compared with those who ate nuts less than once a month. Before the results of this study were made public, people were advised to minimize their nut consumption because nuts were considered a fatty food.

Health Benefits
The results from studies show that regular nut consumption reduces the risk of many ailments, disorders, and diseases: stroke, type 2 diabetes, dementia, advanced macular degeneration, and gallstones. Researchers also found that consumption of nuts provides a gain of an extra 5-6 years of a life free of coronary heart disease and longevity is increased by approximately 2 years. Nuts are also effective in weight loss plans.

In the Adventist Health Study, about 32% of the nuts eaten were peanuts, 29% almonds, 16% walnuts, and 23% other types. It was not determined if the nuts were fresh, oil-roasted, or dry-roasted. The Nurses' Study found that peanuts (aka legumes) appeared to be just as effective in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease as tree nuts. The results of the study show that people who ate walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachio nuts and macadamia nuts as part of their diet for several weeks had blood level compositions conducive with a reduced risk of coronary disease. Nuts have low levels of saturated fats but also high levels of unsaturated fats, which lower blood cholesterol levels and, subsequently, lower the risk of coronary heart disease.

Studies suggest that 1-2 ounces (30 to 60 grams) of nuts should be consumed daily to gain the maximum health benefits. Approximately 1 ounce (30 grams) of most nuts contains about 200 calories. Nuts are a fatty food and people may be concerned about weight gain. However, researchers have found that nuts do not cause weight gain. In the Nurses' Study, people who frequently consumed nuts were, on average, thinner than those who almost never consumed nuts. Daily supplements of almonds or peanuts for 6 months resulted in little or no increase in body weight. It is speculated that nuts satisfy hunger enough to reduce the consumption of other types of food. In addition, peanut butter was a key component in a successful weight-loss study, which led to the formation of a popular Peanut Butter Diet. Almonds were an essential part of the vegetarian Portfolio Eating Plan, which was just as effective for lowering blood cholesterol levels as the drug Lovastatin.

Nut Nutrition
Raw nuts are cholesterol-free and contain trace amounts of sodium. They are good sources of fiber, vitamin E, folic acid, copper, magnesium, and zinc. They also contain arginine, which is an amino acid that plays an important role in wound healing, detoxification reactions, immune functions, and promoting the secretion of several hormones including insulin and growth hormone. Nuts also contain plant sterols, which are compounds that are added to margarine to reduce cholesterol absorption from food. Nuts have a high fat content but it is predominantly the heart-healthy unsaturated fat that helps to lower low-density lipoproteins (LDL or bad cholesterol) in the body.

A Handful of Nuts…and then some
Nuts are an important component of the Healthy Eating Pyramid. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) recommends up to 1.5 ounces of nuts per day (a handful is equal to about 1 ounce). Optimal benefits are obtained by eating nuts in their natural state but there are many other ways to enjoy them and still gain health benefits. Add nuts to home-made breads, cakes, main dishes, soups, stuffing, salads, and desserts. Nut butters are also a delectable way to obtain your nut intake.

Children and adults can be allergic to nuts but for the large majority of the population, an increase in nut consumption is beneficial to health. The incorporation of nuts into our daily diet results in a decreased risk of a wide range of disorders and diseases. It also helps you to lose weight. So, go ahead, be good to your body and have a handful of nuts…every day!

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Copyright ©2010 Joyce E.M. Wall

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