Which nuts are best for you to eat

Tertulia's Seamus Mullen offers up this recipe. Credit: Provided
Tertulia’s Seamus Mullen offers up this recipe.
Credit: Provided

Nuts can get a bad rap — their high-fat content stops many dieters on the “low fat” bandwagon from putting their hands into a bag. But don’t shy away from these little protein powerhouses — the fats in nuts are the monounsaturated, which are the good kind that your body needs to lower cholesterol and your risk of heart disease and stroke (not to mention, that number on the scale). Plus, a recent study from the New England Journal of Medicine links people who eat nuts to longer life spans. Not all nuts are created equal though, so we enlisted Beth Warren, MS, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian with a private practice in New York and the author of the forthcoming “Living a Real Life With Real Food: How to Get Healthy, Lose Weight, and Stay Energized — the Kosher Way,” to give us the facts straight.

Walnuts

These brain-shaped nuts are shaped as so for a reason: They benefit the brain! “Walnuts are actually the highest nut in terms of omega-3 fatty acids, which help improve memory and decrease inflammation,” Warren says. “Inflammation is tied to a lot of diseases — things like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, ADHD and autism.” More good news: “Walnuts are the highest in terms of quality and quantity of antioxidants,” Warren says. Antioxidants ward off disease in your body.

The only caveat about walnuts is that their high omega-3 count makes them one of the fattiest of nuts. So, if you’re going to enjoy a 1-ounce serving (a typical serving size for all nuts), that’s about 14 halves. But again, there’s no reason to hear the word “fat” and get scared. “You want the oil,” Warren says. “That oiliness around the nut is what you’re looking for — it’s just you have less of it in a serving.”

 

Almonds

Because they’re lower in calories than other nuts (and lower in calories than previously thought), you can eat more of them in a serving — 23 to be exact. Load up on them for their vitamin E levels — the vitamin acts as a barrier for your artery walls, protecting them from plaque buildup, which could lower your cholesterol and your risk for heart disease. Almonds also have magnesium, which “helps with your nerves and relaxes your muscles,” Warren says. (Prone to migraines? Load up on foods with magnesium, she recommends.) The wonder nuts also boast calcium and folate. “Folate is super-important for brain health,” says Warren.

 

Peanuts

Surprise! These legumes are not actually nuts. But they’re still worthy of a spot on your diet. “Peanuts are a good source of protein, and you can have more of them in one serving,” Warren says of the 28 you can enjoy at a time. And though you may have heard to swap your PB for almond butter, surprisingly, the calorie and protein counts between the two are pretty similar. Why the fuss over almond butter then? “It’s more of a processing issue than anything,” Warren says. “People think they’re making a good choice in reduced-fat peanut butter, but processing [it means it’s] more likely to have partially hydrogenated oils. Almond butter is naturally less processed.” Opt for a natural peanut butter to get your fix — just don’t go overboard on it. “As long as it’s portion-controlled, it can be part of a great diet,” she says.

 

Pecans

These are a bit higher in calories (enjoy 19 per 1-ounce serving), but “like most nuts, they’re very high in antioxidants and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.” Warren likes using them in baking because of their texture and sweet flavor. You can also use them as a coating for fish instead of breadcrumbs, or toss them on a salad.

 

Pistachios

You can knock back 49 of these, the least caloric of nuts. And you might think of spinach and egg yolks as your best sources for lutein (which supports brain and eye health), but pistachios are very high in it too.

 

Cashews

Dudes, read up and chomp down: These bad boys are loaded with copper, which helps keep your zinc levels in balance. Why does that matter? “Zinc is important for men in terms of sperm health and testosterone,” Warren says. Zinc also aids in keeping your body healthy by boosting your immune system, and copper in iron absorption and thyroid function. Women don’t get a raw deal though: “Zinc, an important antioxidant, supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood and adolescence. It is also important in regulating your sense of taste.” You can have 18 (about a handful) cashews for a 1-ounce serving.

 

Nutty notes

Look for unsalted varieties
“Salt makes you want to eat more — it opens up your appetite,” Warren says.

Easy way to get your fix: KIND Bars
“They’re really easy on the run, they come in a variety of flavors and they really curb cravings and your appetite,” Warren says of the nut-heavy snack bars. Some even have indulgent ingredients like dark chocolate, “so it has that little bit of sweetness, controlled in one serving.” They’re made with all-natural ingredients and are less-processed than other bars out there.

 

Recipe: Smoky Almonds with Spanish Paprika, Coriander and Rosemary

Serves 8
• 1 pound California almonds
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 tablespoon ground coriander
• 2 tablespoons smoked Spanish paprika
• 4 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced
• 1 tablespoon sea salt

Special equipment:
• Cookie tray, food processor

Pre-heat oven to 400 F. In a large mixing bowl, combine almonds with olive oil and rosemary and toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant and deep in color. Shake the pan every minute or so to make sure the almonds are evenly roasted. Once the almonds look nicely roasted, remove them to a large mixing bowl and season with sea salt and toss to coat evenly with the paprika and coriander. They can be eaten right away as a snack, or you can package them up as a gift. One of the best things about this recipe is its versatility; not only are these almonds tasty on their own, but if you coarsely grind them up, they make a terrific crust for a piece of fish or even chicken. To crust a piece of chicken, simply season the chicken (leg or breast) with sea salt and pepper, then drizzle with some olive oil and thoroughly coat with the ground almonds and it’s ready to roast in the oven!

Recipe courtesy of Seamus Mullen for the Almond Board of California

Follow Meredith Engel on Twitter @MeredithAtMetro.


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