Nutrition

Everything you need to know about nuts

Author: Canadian Living

Nutrition

Everything you need to know about nuts

Early Christians gave gifts of sugar-coated almonds to symbolize happiness, health and good fortune. Today, almonds and other nuts are still the perfect gift or festive addition to a holiday party. Most nuts require little or no preparation and if properly stored can keep close to a year in their shells and for several months unshelled. Rich in heart-protecting unsaturated fats, protein, vitamins and minerals, nuts help promote good health. So grab a handful as a nutritious snack, or add them to soups, salads or decadent desserts (allow yourself one or two this season). Here's what you need to know about the most popular nuts.


Almonds

What they are:
Almonds are actually the seeds of the almond tree fruit. In Sweden, almonds are given as a symbol of good fortune at Christmas.

Health benefits:
A nutrient-dense nut, the almond is a rich source of the following:
• Vitamin E: It promotes healthy aging and protects against Alzheimer's disease.
• Magnesium: This decreases stress on blood vessels, promotes oxygen flow and decreases free radical damage to the heart.
• Flavonoids: In almond skins, there are 20 potent flavonoids that work together with vitamins C and E to produce antioxidant action.
• Copper: As with manganese, it is essential to the body's metabolic enzymes.
• Fibre and protein: One-quarter of a cup of almonds has more than four grams of fibre (which helps your digestive system work efficiently) and 7.62 grams of protein.

Avoid if:
You have kidney problems. Almonds are high in oxalates, which can cause problems with the kidney and gallbladder and interfere with calcium absorption.

How to add them to your diet:
Try almond butter (ground almonds) on toast, almond milk in baking, marzipan (sweetened almond paste) or pralines (almonds coated with caramelized sugar) as a treat, or use almonds as a garnish in sweet-and-savoury dishes. For a festive twist in the Swedish tradition, hide an almond in a serving of rice pudding. The person who finds it will be married the following year.

Nutritional value
One ounce (22 nuts): 170 calories; 15 grams of fat

Page 1 of 5 -- Learn all about pine nuts, pecans and walnuts on page 2

Pine nuts
What they are:
The tiny pine nuts are actually seeds produced by pinecones of some varieties of pine trees.

Health benefits:
As with many other nuts, pine nuts contain heart-healthy alpha-linolenic acid, as well as the B vitamin thiamine. Pine nuts are also a great source of protein.

How to add them to your diet:
Pine nuts are most commonly used to make pesto (a sauce typically using fresh basil, olive oil, Parmesan cheese and pine nuts), but they can also be used in stuffings, salads and breads.

Nutritional value
One ounce (167 nuts): 190 calories; 19 grams of fat

Pecans
What they are:
Native Americans used pecans in their trades, exchanging them for hides.

Health benefits:
Pecans are a good source of protein and fibre. They also contain zinc, which helps the body generate testosterone, beneficial in both men and women, the B vitamin thiamine and monounsaturated fats. Sodium-free, these nuts make an excellent snack.

How to add them to your diet:
Eat them whole, or ground, grated, puréed or diced. Add them to appetizers, soups, salads, desserts or stuffings. Try your hand at traditional pecan pie as a holiday dessert.

Nutritional value
One ounce (20 halves): 200 calories; 21 grams of fat

Walnuts
What they are:
These hard-shelled nuts are well protected from the elements. A French country tradition involves hanging a bag of walnuts from the ceiling in the kitchen to represent abundance and longevity.

Health benefits:
Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acid, specifically alpha-linolenic acid, which the body can't manufacture itself. Omega-3 has anti-inflammatory properties and provides cardiovascular protection by helping to reduce blood pressure and plaque buildup. One-quarter of a cup of walnuts provides 90 per cent of the recommended daily intake of omega-3. Walnuts are also high in a number of essential vitamins and minerals, including the B vitamins, vitamin E, copper, iron and zinc, all of which contribute to the body's antioxidant action, protect against free radical damage and ensure proper cell functioning.

How to add them to your diet:
Some of the best-known global delights use walnuts (for example, baklava, a Middle Eastern dessert made of alternating layers of phyllo pastry and ground walnuts, topped with a layer of spiced syrup). In Italy, cooks combine walnuts with pine nuts to make pesto. The French make a specialty of walnut soup. Use ground walnuts to thicken soups and stews, or sprinkle a handful of walnuts over breakfast cereal or salads. Toast walnuts to enhance their flavour -- simply stir for a few minutes on high heat on an open skillet. For the oven, spread nuts on cookie sheet, then bake at 400 F (200 C) for five to 10 minutes; stir occasionally.

Nutritional value
One ounce (14 halves): 185 calories; 18 grams of fat

Page 2 of 5 -- Discover facts about chestnuts and brazil nuts on page 3

Chestnuts
What they are:
A symbol of strength and success, chestnuts are always on New Year's Eve menus in Japan.

Health benefits:
Low in calories and fat, chestnuts are a great snacking choice. However, unlike other nuts, chestnuts are high in carbohydrates. Chestnuts are the only nuts that contain vitamin C (one ounce of boiled chestnuts provides 7.6 grams). Chestnuts are a good source of potassium and folate. Potassium, an electrolyte, is necessary for regulating the heartbeat and maintaining regular muscle contractions.

How to add them to your diet:
Try this twist on roasting (open fire optional) -- in Modena, Italy, chestnuts are soaked in wine before roasting. Or, serve them candied and call it marrons glacés, in the French cooking style.

Nutritional value
One ounce (10 nuts): 54 calories; 1.8 grams of fat

Brazil nuts
What they are:
Originating in Brazil (hence the name), the Brazil nut tree can grow to a height of 250 feet (76.2 metres). The three-sided nut grows in pods; its rich, creamy "meat" tastes like coconut.

Health benefits:
Brazil nuts are rich in the B vitamin thiamine, selenium, which studies show significantly reduces the chance of developing prostate cancer, as well as magnesium, zinc and calcium. Brazil nuts also contain alpha-linolenic acid, the same omega-3 fatty acid found in walnuts.

How to add them to your diet:
Lightly toast Brazil nuts and serve in a bowl as a between-meal snack or an after-dinner delight.

Nutritional value
One ounce (6 to 8 nuts): 186 calories; 19 grams of fat

Pistachios
What they are:
The Queen of Sheba believed pistachios were an aphrodisiac, and ancient Middle Easterners thought that sharing pistachios enhanced feelings of love. Members of the cashew family, pistachios are often dyed red, but their kernels are green.

Health benefits
Pistachios are high in phytosterols, which are known for lowering blood cholesterol. They contain mostly heart-friendly monounsaturated fats. The potassium content of one ounce of pistachios (310 milligrams) is equal to that of one orange. Pistachios are also a great source of fibre, vitamin B6, magnesium and calcium.

How to add them to your diet:
Garnish soups, salads and cereals with pistachios. Combine vegetables, rice or pasta with pistachio sauce. (To make the sauce: Combine three cups/750 millilitres of soy milk with salt and pepper to taste; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Slowly add ground pistachios; stir until thick.)

Nutritional value
One ounce (49 nuts): 160 calories ; 13 grams of fat

Page 3 of 5 -- Discover the health benefits of hazelnuts and cashews on page 4

Hazelnuts
What they are:
These sweet-tasting nuts, also known as filberts, grow in clusters, their fuzzy outer husks giving way to the hard, smooth nuts inside. According to archeological fossils, hazelnuts date back to prehistoric times and originated in Asia.

Health benefits:
Hazelnuts are a close second to Brazil nuts in their calcium content, making them a good source of this mineral that promotes healthy bones, teeth and internal cellular balance. Hazelnuts also contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

How to add them to your diet:
Combine hazelnuts with other ingredients, such as chocolate, in desserts. Or, use them as a garnish on salads or in main dishes with vegetables and chicken.

Nutritional value
One ounce (20 nuts): 185 calories; 18 grams of fat

Cashews
What they are:
These kidney-shaped seeds are part of the cashew apple, a delicacy in Brazil. They're always served shelled because the inside of their shells contains a caustic resin, called cashew balm.

Health benefits:
These nuts have a lower fat content than most other nuts, and 75 per cent of their fat is unsaturated (mostly in the form of oleic acid). Studies have shown that oleic acid promotes cardiovascular health. People with diabetes who add monounsaturated fats to their diets can decrease their triglyceride levels (high levels of triglycerides are associated with an increased risk of heart disease).

Cashews also have a high concentration of copper, a necessary component in many of the body's enzymes, including those that are responsible for antioxidant defences. As well, maintaining sufficient levels of copper in the body prevents anemia and joint problems such as rheumatoid arthritis. These nuts are also rich in magnesium, which, along with calcium, is an important mineral for healthy bones.

Avoid if:
• You have kidney or gallbladder problems. Cashews contain oxalates, high levels of which can crystallize and lead to health problems.
• You've just taken a calcium supplement. Oxalates may interfere with calcium absorption. The best time to eat them is two to three hours before taking your supplements.

How to add them to your diet:
In the morning, combine them with seeds and dried fruit as a healthy, quick breakfast, or mix them with one tablespoon (15 millilitres) of maple syrup and sprinkle over cereal or oatmeal. Spread cashew butter on whole or multigrain toast at lunch, and add cashews to sautéed vegetables at dinner.

Nutritional value
One ounce (18 nuts): 165 calories; 13 grams of fat

Page 4 of 5 -- Learn all about macadamia nuts on page 5

Macadamia nuts
What they are:
Macadamia nuts, also known as Queensland nuts, are native to Australia. They have been eaten since ancient times by Aborigines, but didn't get widespread use till the 20th century.

Health benefits:
Macadamia nuts have a higher percentage of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat than any other nut, seed or vegetable. Macadamia nuts also contain phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and calcium, all of which are essential to cell, nerve and muscle functioning.

How to add them to your diet:
Use ground macadamia nuts to coat seafood or chicken for a savoury taste and texture. Or add them to cookies, muffins or even cheesecake for dessert.

Nutritional value
One ounce (10 to 12 nuts): 200 calories; 22 grams of fat

Peanuts
What they are:
Contrary to popular belief, peanuts aren't true nuts; they're actually members of the legume family, related to lentils, peas and other beans. Each peanut shell encases two to three kernels. In ancient Peru, Incas cultivated wild peanuts and offered them to the Sun God as part of their religious ceremonies.

Health benefits:
Peanuts have health benefits for the body, mind and soul. They contain oleic acid, a heart-healthy source of unsaturated fat and folate, which is essential to the formation of our DNA. Maintaining adequate levels of folate may decrease the risk of birth defects by half for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant.

A study in the July 2004 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed women for 20 years and found that those who frequently consumed nuts, including peanuts and peanut butter, had a lower risk of cholecystectomy (surgical removal of the gallbladder). Peanuts also contain resveratrol, an antioxidant compound that is also found in red grapes and red wine.

Avoid if:
• You have allergies. Peanuts are one of the most common food allergens, according to Anaphylaxis Canada. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) recommends that children under the age of three not eat these nuts to reduce their risk of developing an allergy.
• You're concerned about your thyroid. Peanuts contain goitrogens, naturally occurring substances that can interfere with the thyroid.
• You're prone to cold sores. Peanuts contain arginine, high levels of which the herpes simplex virus needs to replicate.

How to add them to your diet:
Enjoy peanuts in staples such as peanut butter (make your own by simply blending roasted peanuts until smooth) and peanut oil, which adds a savoury taste to stir-fries and salad dressings. Also try peanuts in soups and desserts. Roasting adds to their digestibility and protects against aflatoxin, a toxin to which peanuts are susceptible.

Nutritional value
One ounce (22 nuts): 165 calories; 14 grams of fat

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Nutrition

Everything you need to know about nuts

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