5 Reasons to Choose Nuts Daily

Do you want to make a simple change in your diet that pays off big in health rewards?  Then add a small handful of nuts each day to your diet!  “Tree nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashew, pecans, macadamia, Brazil, hazelnut, and pine, are a nutrient powerhouses,” says Susan Mills-Gray, Nutrition and Health Specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Nuts reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by lowering LDL (lousy) cholesterol, lowering total cholesterol level and raising HDL (happy) cholesterol.  Nuts also lower blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels to improve blood flow.  Improved heart health leads to improved brain function, so nuts protect cognitive function as we age.

Nuts play a key role in diabetes management with their cholesterol lowering effect, as well as improving blood glucose metabolism.  Recent studies have shown that nut consumption actually lowers mortality risk from heart disease, cancer, and lung disease.

Now we know that lots of people avoid nuts because nuts are high in calories.  “Nuts actually can help you LOSE weight,” Mills-Gray adds.  “Those persons who consume tree nuts regularly tend to weigh about 5 pounds less than those who avoid nuts.”  When consuming nuts, you only absorb about 80% of the calories, plus the protein and the fiber in the nut actually helps you feel fuller longer.  While it’s true that nuts are high in calories due the fat content, that fat is actually heart healthy.

So how do you add nuts without piling on the weight?  Limit yourself to a small handful daily—1 to 2 ounces (¼ to 1/3  cup).  Replace current snack choices with nuts.  Consider using nuts as the protein for one meal daily.  Avoid salted nut varieties to reduce your sodium intake.

For more information contact your local MU Extension Center or this faculty member at mills-grays@missouri.edu.