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Nuts are a healthful snack and full of beneficial fats

If you're nuts about nuts, you may already be aware that they haven't always been on the list of "good" foods. For the past few years, however, nutritionists have been discovering the benefits that a handful of nuts can do for the body.

So, if you love almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, you now have every excuse to enjoy them everyday. How can they be so good when they're so high in fat? Nuts are high in monounsaturated fats, and those are the "good" fats that actually work to lower the "bad" fats. By lowering cholesterol counts, mono and the slightly less favored polyunsaturated fats are encouraged - but always in moderation.

What other benefits can you expect to receive? Plenty! In addition to the good fats, nuts are loaded with E, a great antioxidant (heart-healthy), along with Vitamins A, B, and C. A third cup of nuts is equal in protein to 4 ounces of meat (and about 270 calories). Most have high levels of iron and calcium, too.

If you are restricting calories - they may not be the best answer. Be sure to know how much you're consuming and don't get carried away. It's very easy to grab a second handful because they're so good. For those who are getting plenty of exercise, nuts are a high-energy snack that will keep going long after refined sugars are wearing off.

And don't limit nuts to eating by the handful. Add them to salads, sprinkle in with cooked vegetables, and include in baked dishes and stir-fries.

Almonds - are a great alternative for diabetics and may also be suitable for those with peanut allergies (always check with a doctor first). They're better when fried lightly - it brings out the best flavors. Look for almond oil, extract, flour, butter, and paste. Oil has an especially high smoke point.

Pine nuts - great for toppings. Can easily be pureed to make delicious spreads. Keep refrigerated. Like most nuts, they are high in oils, which can turn rancid quickly. A single pine nut is one calorie.

Peanuts - remember, these are actually legumes (growing underground) and not nuts. High protein and Vitamins E and B and niacin.

Walnuts - are strong in flavor and are best when combined with other nuts. When handling, the oils will stain the skin. English walnuts are believed to inhibit the growth of cancer cells and protect against heart disease.

Hazelnuts - a definite favorite as an additive in coffee and as a flavoring. Extremely high protein content.

Pistachios are also a great addition to the healthful nut family, along with macadamias (with a whopping 17 grams of monounsaturated fat per ounce). Watch those Brazil nuts, however; they're packed with 5 grams of saturated fat per ounce and live on the outside of healthful recommendations.

Nuts are cholesterol free and do not contain but trace amounts of salt. Read the labels when buying any nut - salt and other additives could eliminate some of those healthful benefits.

 

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