Nuts are small packages of heart healthy food, inexpensive to buy and easy to eat, when you’re on the go. Use them as a substitute for snacks cooked with saturated fats, but lay off the nuts coated in salt, sugar or chocolate or you’ll eliminate any heart health benefits.
What Makes a Nut Healthy Snack Food
Most nuts are loaded with heart healthy stuff that helps lessen the risk of heart disease. Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, some pine nuts and pistachio nuts contain these substances which may reduce the risk of heart disease. “Nuts may not be the key to cardiovascular health, but adding nuts to a balanced, healthful diet can take you one step away from heart disease,” says Dr. Simon, editor of the Harvard Men’s Health Watch.
- Unsaturated fats—the good fats in nuts that help lower LDL (the bad) cholesterol
- Omega-3 fatty acids—oils that keep your heart rhythms stable reducing the onset of a heart attack
- L-arginine—a substance that keeps the tunnel walls of your arteries smooth and flexible so blood can flow freely.
- Fiber—another cholesterol lowering agent that fills you up faster so you eat less.
- Plant sterols—found naturally in nuts, this substance is added to margarine and orange juice for extra health benefits.
While all of the above aid in heart health, it’s important to know that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the following package label in 2003 as a “qualified” health claim for nuts: “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”
Choose Nuts for a Healthy Snack Food
It’s true. Nuts are 80 percent fat; that’s a lot of calories packed into a tiny piece of food. Over indulge and you’ll pack on the pounds and wonder how you gained them when you were eating a healthy food like nuts. The key to enjoying nuts and the benefits of the unsaturated (healthy) fat it contains is to use it as a substitute for the saturated (unhealthy) fats found in processed foods, chips, crackers, cheese, butter, milk, eggs and meats. Replace a portion of these fats with a handful of nuts. There’s an informative chart produced by the Mayo Clinic which details the calories and fat content of a variety of nuts, both raw and roasted.
When you’re craving an afternoon snack, some crunch on a salad, or have noisy hunger pangs for food, choose a handful of nuts. They’re a natural food that promotes healthy eating and healthy weight management.
Source: MayoClinic.com, “Nuts and your health: Eating nuts for your heart health,”
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health, or is considering changing his or her diet, should contact their personal doctor for advice.