Over the last several years, many people have heard that nuts are unhealthy, full of fat, and make people gain weight. Yes, they can be unhealthy. Yes, they are full of fat, and yes they can make people gain weight. However, when consumed in moderation, nuts are packed with health boosting nutrients that make them an essential piece to a well-balanced diet.
When looking at the health benefits of nuts, they are numerous and powerful. According to Mayo Clinic, nuts can have the following benefits:
- Lowing LDL cholesterol
- Lowering inflammation related to heart disease
- Reduce your risk of developing blood clots
- Improve the health of the lining in your arteries
What makes nuts so healthy? They are packed with unsaturated fatty acids, Omega-3 fatty acid, fiber, protein and Vitamin E, among other things. Unlike their saturated fatty acid brother, unsaturated fatty acids are liquid at room temperature, and can help to clean the arterial walls of plaque build-up. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have excellent anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties. Diets high in fiber lead to a reduced risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol levels, and decreased risk of colon cancer.
Even with all of these health benefits, nuts are still treated as a food to avoid. That is because they are high in calories. Just one quarter cup of almonds contains 164 calories. But that same quarter cup also contains 6 grams of protein and 14 grams of heart healthy unsaturated fatty acids.
The key to keeping nuts in the eating plan is moderation. Limit consumption to one quarter cup (about one handful) per day. This will help keep hunger at bay during those long morning hours before lunch, and ensure the weight stays off. Happy snacking.
Patrick Scott, M.S., C.S.C.S.
Sports and Fitness Director