Nuts and More Nuts: Which Are Best For You?

by Grace Rivers, RDN, CDCES

Nuts are not just for squirrels; we have gone nuts over their excellent taste too. The crunchy bites furnish healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and supply fiber in each serving. And more than this, nuts have been shown to aid with heart protection which is crucial when caring for diabetes.

Even though nuts are a healthy choice, you will add too many calories if you are not careful. Being aware of the serving size is in your favor. Instead of adding nuts, try swapping a current food with nuts to help with calorie control. 

Food swaps

Instead of . . .                                            Eat . . .

Snack bars                                               Nuts with dried fruit

Breadcrumbs on meat or fish              Ground or sliced nuts for coating

Bacon (Yes, really!)                                 Smokehouse almonds

Croutons                                                   Pecans, walnuts, slivered almonds

Nutrients found in nuts

Beyond the macronutrients of healthy fats, protein, and carbs, nuts also contribute to your vitamin and mineral intake. In general, nuts provide magnesium and potassium. Eating a variety will give you a wider span of nutrients that can include iron, folate, and selenium. Depending on how closely you monitor your intake, you may like to know the variations and how quickly the calories add up.

What about salt and sugar?

Grabbing unsalted or lightly salted nuts are the best choices to keep sodium on the lower side. Smoke-flavored almonds are higher in sodium, but if swapping these out for bacon, the almonds contribute healthy fats instead of bacon’s less healthy saturated fat.

If you want sweetened nuts, check the label for added sugars and how the total carb content fits into your eating plan.

The other healthy fat found in walnuts

The plant-based form of omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid, is in walnuts. Including omega-3 foods helps lower inflammation. High levels of inflammation can contribute to cardiovascular diseases. A review of studies from the Journal of Nutrition reports that walnuts support cardiovascular health by lowering unhealthy LDL cholesterol and blood pressure. They also contribute to a healthier lining in small arteries and serve as an antioxidant.

Which nuts to choose

When it comes to selecting which nuts you want to eat, you have many selections. You get to decide on flavor and crunch.

If eating nuts in bulk or from a container, use a measuring cup or count them out. Always check the product nutrition facts label because they can vary by brand.

If you want fewer carbs, note that cashews have a bit more than the others.

Are you looking for nuts with iron? Go for almonds, cashews, macadamia, and pistachios. Want more folate or protein? Munch on almonds or peanuts.

More selenium? Savor Brazil nuts.

If you want more nuts in a serving, choose pistachios, peanuts, or almonds.

Do you want some nuts to munch on because you’re hungry? Decide on your food swap and snatch an individual package or one-quarter cup to make your selection. Have fun crunching.

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