Food & nutrition

Nuts: Are they good for my health?

Bowl of nuts
Written by Sanaz Baradaran

What is a nut?

The term “nut” refers to hard-shelled fruit of a wide variety of trees. They come in many flavours and forms, including almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, and chestnuts.

Are nuts good for me?

Nuts are very nutritious and a great source of healthy, unsaturated fats, fibre and protein. Many nuts also include a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and plant sterols. The nutrient content of nuts offers a number of health benefits. The type of unsaturated fat found in nuts may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Both the high fat content and the fibre help you feel full, which makes nuts a great snack! The fibre and the plant sterols can help reduce the reabsorption of cholesterol in the gut, keeping levels in a healthy range. The antioxidants — including the antioxidant vitamins and minerals — may be protective against cancer and cardiovascular diseases. And because nuts are high in potassium, they may help with maintaining a healthy blood pressure.

Too much of a good thing?

To enjoy the health benefits of nuts, be sure to choose unsalted nuts to keep sodium levels in check. It’s also important to watch your portion sizes.

One serving of nuts is just a handful, or about one-quarter of a cup. This would translate into approximately 20 almonds or hazelnuts, 15 cashews or pecans, 30 pistachios, or nine walnut kernels.

If you use nut butters, a serving would be the size of your two thumbs, or two tablespoons.

Adding nuts to the mix

There are many fun ways to incorporate nuts into your daily diet. Nut butters can be a great source of protein, especially for breakfast. Nuts also make a great snack! Since nuts can be addictive, a good strategy would be to pre-package one-quarter cup portions of nuts for snacks. You can also try sprinkling nuts on your salad, cereal or yogurt, or use ground varieties as coating on your fish or chicken. Try different varieties to benefit from the different nutrients that they offer!

About the author

Sanaz Baradaran

Sanaz is a dietetic intern at Sunnybrook.

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