Nutrition in a NUTshell...
by Dawn M. Oakley
Ms. Oakley is Guam's 5 A Day Coordinator and a nutritionist with the Department of Public Health and Social Services. She is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and has a master's degree in public health nutrition
Many are confused by the nutritional value in nuts or if there is any at all. If you are one of these people then you might want to read on. Nuts include pecans, almonds, walnuts, Brazils, peanuts, cashews, macadamias, pinenuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, etc.
Nuts taste great, are cholesterol-free, provide several nutrients, including protein and fiber. They also provide vitamins such as folic acid, niacin, Vitamin E & B-6 and minerals such as magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium, phosphorous and potassium. Nuts are also rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals.
Nuts are apart of the Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans and Nuts Group on the Food Guide Pyramid. The USDA recommended number of servings from this group is 2-3 per day, or 5-7 ounces of cooked lean meat. One third cup of nuts is equal to one ounce of cooked lean meat.
Several medical studies indicate that nut consumption plays an important role in reducing the risk for heart disease. In one study, women who ate five or more ounces of nuts per week had one-third fewer heart attacks than those who rarely or never ate nuts. In another study, subjects who consumed nuts five or more times per week had a 39% decreased risk of death from coronary disease compared to those who consumed nuts less than once per week.
If you are trying to lose weight, nuts will help you feel full, for this reason, nutritionists recommend that you include nuts in your meal plan. Nuts are satisfying and experts have found that they do not cause weight gain as long as total calories are controlled.
Nuts contain antioxidants and phytochemicals, which fight cancer and heart disease. Almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and Brazils, are good sources of antioxidants such as vitamin E and selenium. Several studies show that vitamin E may reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
The one aspect about nuts that many people don't like is that they are high in fat. This should not be viewed as a negative. The fats found in nuts are the "good" unsaturated fats (monounsaturated & polyunsaturated fats). These unsaturated fats decrease the "bad" LDL cholesterol. By doing this they work to protect the heart from cardiovascular disease. It is important to remember that even though nuts contain the "good" unsaturated fats, these fats contain as many calories as "bad" saturated fats. For this reason, don't overdo a good thing, watch your portion sizes.
Nuts are easy to fit into meals. Try to toss some nuts in stir-fries, salads, and pasta. Sprinkle chopped nuts on soup, vegetables, baked potatoes, casseroles, or even low-fat ice-cream. Experiment with different nuts in muffins, pancakes, or waffles. Sprinkle nuts in yogurt, oatmeal, or cold cereal. You can add your favorite nuts to low-fat cheese and crackers. I like to mix chopped walnuts with brown rice. Nuts are easy to carry, which makes them a great choice for snacks. By eating a mixture of nuts you will ensure that you will get a variety of important vitamins and minerals.
Remember to eat nuts every day as part of a healthy meal plan for reduced risk of cancer and heart disease.
For more information, call Public Health General Nutrition Services at 475-0284.