Sunday, December 13, 2009

In A Nut Shell

Nuts and seeds are good foods. Most are rich in unsaturated fats, magnesium, copper, protein, fiber and iron. They are also high in calories. The term "energy rich" does not mean that you will feel more energetic or stronger, as some labels imply. Energy is just a term for calories. When shopping for nuts, don't let the so called health claims boost your calorie intake. Here is what we know about nuts:

Nut eaters. People who eat more nuts are less likely to die of a heart attack. That's partly because nut eaters are typically leaner, non-smokers, and more active.
Unsaturated fats. LDL (bad) cholesterol is 2-19% lower when people are fed almonds, peanuts, pecans, or walnuts than when they don't eat nuts. Most other nuts aren't well studied, but odds are that they also lower LDL. Brazil nuts, macadamias and cashews, however, do not lower LDL.
How much? Researchers gave people 1&1/2 to 3&1/2 servings of nuts a day, which did not significantly lower cholesterol. 3 &1/2 servings provide a whopping 600 calories!
Beyond fats. Nuts may lower damaging triglycerides, raise HDL (good) cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and relax artery linings. So far, the evidence is only preliminary.
Salt. Salted nuts typically have 100-300mg of sodium in every 1 oz (1/4 cup) serving. Check the nutrition facts label; if it says "unsalted" or "raw," you can dodge it all.
Dry roasted, oil roasted, or raw? It doesn't matter. Roasted nuts, with or without oil, are no higher in saturated fat or calories.
Calories. Nuts are calorie dense and hard to resist. If you use them to garnish salads, rice, or cereal, you may be less likely to go overboard.
Peanut butter. In theory, peanut butter should have the same impact on cholesterol as peanuts; assuming it contains no partially hydrogenated oils. Yet, unlike nut eaters, peanut butter eaters have no lower risk of heart disease or obesity. It could be due to the other ingredients in peanut butter such as sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and oils not naturally found in nuts. Again, check the labels and avoid products containing added ingredients.

Will nuts keep you alert, as the T.V. commercial claims? Absolutely not. Are they a good alternative to say, red meats? Absolutely.
~ CSPI, 2009 ~

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