Enter the nut case, where researchers have determined that nuts can be a healthful contribution to a well rounded diet.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first qualified health claim for nuts that states: “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease”. Research studies supporting the heart heatlh benefits of almonds were among the strongest submitted for the claim.

Researchers have determined that nuts – used in moderation – can make beneficial contributions to a healthful diet. Nuts provide many of the same nutrients as other protein sources, like meat and poultry, but without the saturated fat.

Nuts History

  • The name “Pakan” or “pecan” is an Algonquin Indian word used to describe “all nuts requiring a stone to crack“.
  • In 1836, while on a pre-Alamo expedition, Jim Bowie and his men became surrounded by the Mexican army south of San Antonio. While the Texans laid low under a grove of pecan trees, cannon shots crashed through the branches “raining a shower of nuts down on us … I saw men picking them up and eating them with as little apparent concern as if they were being shaken down by a norther.
  • The culinary delights of the pecan nut were noted by eighteenth century historian Le Page du Pratz when he praised the pecan and its use in “the praline… sugar cakes or candies filled with … pecan kernels … and one of the delicacies of New Orleans.

Sources: Nurses’ Health Study at Brigham, Women’s Hospital in boston, Harvard School of Public Health, Mercola.

Nuts Nutrition

There is new evidence that unsaturated fats — found in foods such as nuts, vegetable oils and fish — can lower the risk of several chronic diseases. Studies have shown significant drops in cholesterol when people add walnuts, almonds, pistachios, peanuts, or other nuts to their diets. (Peanuts are technically legumes but are eaten like nuts and have similar nutrition.) In addition to mono- and polyunsaturated fats, nuts contain vitamin E, protein, magnesium, potassium and dietary fiber – all potential cancer-fighting substances.

The key to including nuts in your diet is moderation. Nuts are concentrated in calories, so be sure you cut back on other foods and watch portions. A serving of nuts is a scant handful. The cholesterol drops in the new research studies usually involved substituting three servings of nuts for other foods each day.

Nuts should be exchanged for foods with a similar number of calories. For example, instead of serving broccoli with 2-teaspoons of butter, saute cooked broccoli in 1-teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle it with a tablespoon of chopped nuts.

You get a lot of bang for your buck with a nut. A handful of nuts, which can be quite satisfying, is a better snack than chips or high-fat crackers made with hydrogenated oils. And nuts can replace some of the meat or cheese as the protein in salads and stir-fries. Spiced nuts are a good, filling snack. The flavor of most nuts benefits from a light toasting (as in the first recipe below).

Peanut Pleasure: High Energy Content

Add peanuts to your diet!

peanutsPeanuts with their high energy content are rich in E and B complex vitamins and the following minerals.

  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus
  • Calcium
  • Iron

They are also cholesterol free, containing polyunsaturated or “good” oils.

Many nutritionists are convinced the excess calories in nuts will do your diet no harm due to their beneficial properties.

Nuts for Diabetes Prevention?

Those who consumed nuts at least five times a week had a 30-percent lower risk of diabetes than those who almost never ate nuts. It is not clear whether nuts lower the risk of diabetes because they are high in magnesium, unsaturated fats, or fiber or whether something else about nut-eaters lowers their risk. It is worth adding small servings of nuts to your diet. Just keep in mind that they are calorie dense, so you cannot eat them without removing something else.

The author’s of the study suggest cutting out some refined grains and red meat and replacing it with nuts. You will get 150 to 185 calories in a one-ounce serving of dry-roasted nuts. That is just 22 almonds, three tablespoons of cashews, 28 peanuts, 47 pistachios or 1 walnut halve.

If you love nuts and want to put them back into your diet, by all means do so. Just watch the amount you consume and try to limit your intake to an ounce or two a day. How much is that? Following is a chart to help you determine an ounce of various nuts.

Nuts Protective Effect

One study states that those who ate nuts five or more times a week (almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts or peanuts) were half as likely to have a heart attack or suffer from heart disease as people who rarely or never at nuts.

This protective effect may be attributed to the healthy fat profile of nuts, or it may be the vitamin E and fiber found in nuts, both of which can help stave off heart disease.

Substituting nuts for other snack foods proved beneficial in adults with high blood cholesterol: Their LDL cholesterol (bad) lowered.

There isn’t much difference in fat content between raw and dry-roasted or oil roasted nuts, though oil-roasted ones do have more fat.

Noteable notes: If you need to watch your salt intake, do choose unsalted nuts. Look for nuts that are organic and raw for optimum nutrition (with the exception of peanuts).

Nutrition Bonus:

Nuts are rich in protein and a host of other nutrients such as folate, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, zinc and selenium.

Quell Hunger Pains

Another bonus: Nuts are so dense with nutrients they quell hunger pangs with fewer calories compared to other snack foods that provide calories but minimal nutrition.

Almonds and pecans are at their peak in fall, so grab some when you’re looking for a healthy snack. High-protein almonds are low in carbs, and pecans are loaded with zinc and thiamin. Best of all, both nuts are great sources of fiber and heart-healthy fats. Because nuts do contain a lot of calories, stick with the in-the-shell variety if possible. Having to remove the shells means you won’t overindulge when the munchies come calling.

Grab a handful of nuts, about one ounce, for your nutritious afternoon snack. Nuts have a “good fat” that can help you feel more satisfied after eating, preventing you from snacking on more fattening foods.

Nuts by the Ounce

Type of Nut # of Nuts in 1-ounce Calories
Brazil nuts
6 to 8
10 to 12
Pecan halves
Pistachios (shelled)
Walnut halves

Cracking Nuts Tip

To crack a lot of nuts at one time, place them in a towel or pillow case and gently hammer them until cracked.

Nut Trivia

Antonio Gentile: Nuts. The year: 1916. A Virginia goober company was looking for an indelible image for its logo. So, they held a public contest. A 14-year-old boy named Antonio Gentile won $5 (that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 in today’s money) for his drawing of a peanut with arms and legs. The company: Planter’s Nut and Chocolate Company. The advertising icon: Mr. Peanut.

There are a couple recipes below that contain a somewhat high amount of butter; however, remember that these snacks are much more filling and satisfying, with much less food than other snack foods. In addition, butter has no trans-fat as does margarine, so keep this in mind when deciding which you prefer. In most of the recipes, you can substitute Smart Balance for the butter as well. Enjoy!


cashewsCashews are the darlings of the snack world because they are lower in fat than other nuts, higher in protein, and addictively delicious. You know you love them, but did you know this about them?

  • Cashews are native to the coastal regions of northeastern Brazil.
  • The cashew nut is actually the kidney-shaped seed that sits at the bottom of the cashew apple, a delicacy in Brazil and the Caribbean, where the fruit grows prolifically.
  • Cashews are always sold shelled. Why? Because the interior of the cashew shell contains a caustic resin known as cashew balm, which is carefully removed before nuts are packaged for human consumption. This resin is used to make insecticides and varnishes.
  • Cashew’s scientific name is Anacardium occidentale.
  • Cashews belong to the same family as the pistachio and mango.
  • In the 16th century, Portuguese explorers took cashew trees from Brazil and introduced them to other tropical countries, including India and Africa.
  • Currently, the leading commercial providers of cashews are Brazil, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Nigeria.
  • Cashew wood is a precious, much-prized resource in Brazil.

Cashew Clusters Recipe

  • 9 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup cashews

Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Stir in sweetened dried cranberries and nuts. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. Let harden at room temperature or chill in refrigerator. Recipe makes about 16 clusters.

Did you know?

September 13th is National Peanut Day and October 22 is National Nut Day..

Read More: Food Facts