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Nutritional Values Of Nuts

Mmmm nuts! Most people have a favourite, but aren’t nuts energy-dense and high in fat, I hear you ask. The answer is yes, nuts are extremely high in calories, but they are also a nutrition powerhouse and should always be eaten in moderation. If you have a gastric band you will have to munch your nuts very, very slowly so they don’t stick in your pouch which is a very good habit to practice. The following summarises the important health benefits of eating nuts:

  • Although nuts are calorie-dense, nut-eaters are slimmer than the rest of the population. 

  • The protein found in nuts helps you feel fuller for longer and less likely to snack on other less healthy food.

  • Nuts are very high in fats but they are an excellent source of ‘good’ fats. The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in nuts help lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, promoting a healthy heart.

  • Nuts are a good source of many vitamins and minerals; vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, selenium and folate among others. They are also a good source of fibre and phytochemicals which act as antioxidants.

  • There is some evidence to suggest health-protective benefits of nuts other than decreasing the risk of coronary heart disease, such as reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes and a decreased risk of some cancers. However, more studies are needed to find a direct association.
     

All these health benefits make it quite tempting to munch on a bag of nuts or open a jar of peanut butter, but not so fast! In weight management terms portion control is extremely important! Large portions will lead to weight gain. I recommend one ounce of nuts as a good portion size. The table below shows how many nut kernels there are in an ounce, as well as the calorie, fat and protein content for all the nuts.

The healthiest nuts are raw nuts, followed by dry roasted nuts with no added salt. Stay away from oil-roasted salted nuts, such as salted peanuts (which are the most popular nuts eaten). These are higher in calories and don’t get me started on the high salt content! Also try to avoid chocolate and yogurt covered nuts which have a lot of oil and sugar added to them. Different nuts have different nutritional benefits. For example, almonds excel in vitamin E; have the least saturated fat and the most fibre. Brazil nuts have a high selenium content and also the highest saturated fat content compared with other nuts. Selenium can be harmful if eaten in excess and one Brazil nut already provides more selenium than the recommended daily allowance, so I recommend eating no more than 3 Brazil nuts at any time. Also, if trying new nuts for the first time, be careful with nut allergy as it is the most common food sensitivity today.

In conclusion, you should go nuts, but not too nuts! Nuts are tasty, healthy snacks and should be part of a healthy diet. However, it is absolutely essential to choose the right types of nuts and the right portion sizes for good weight management!
 

Nutritional comparison of nuts per ounce (28g)

   No. of Kernels Calories   Fat (g) Protein (g) 

 Macademia

10 - 12

204

21 

 Pecans

10

196

 20

3

 Pine nuts

167

191

 19

4

 Brazil nuts

6

186

 19

4

 Walnuts

7

185

 18

4

 Hazelnuts

21

178

 17

4

 Almonds

23

163

 14

6

Peanuts

32

161

 14

7

 Pistachios

49

159

 13

6

 Cashews

18

157

 12

5

Chestnuts (roasted)

3

69

0.6

0.9

(Reference: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference)


Dr David Ashton

6th June 2011

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