Nuts such as almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, pecans, walnuts, macadamia nuts and hazelnuts have long been a protein-packed snack food that is ideal whether you arrive home feeling famished and need a little something before dinner is ready or you are simply on the go and need something portable and filling. However, nuts have earned a bad reputation as a food to avoid due to their high fat and calorie content and therefore most people do not consume them very often because of it. The good news is that when you eat nuts while being mindful of portion size (1.5 ounces, a small handful, is recommended), they can be eaten regularly and are actually great for your health! The most wholesome options are unsalted and either raw or dry-roasted, while nuts cooked in oil or covered in sugar and/or artificial flavorings should be avoided.
The Health Benefits of Nuts
Nuts are nutritional powerhouses that contain amazingly beneficial substances such as omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, magnesium, protein, copper, fiber, folic acid, vitamin E and antioxidant phytochemicals. Eating nuts can help reduce your risk of heart disease. Adding them to your diet can also help lower “bad” cholesterol levels while raising “good” cholesterol levels. Furthermore, they can help dilate blood vessels, reduce your risk of developing blood clots that could lead to a heart attack and help prevent your arteries from hardening.
Here are some great ideas to help you incorporate more nuts into your diet (beyond snacking on them!):
Add Them to Granola – Whether you buy the store-bought variety or make your own at home (which is not only easy to throw together, it can be much healthier, too), no granola is complete without some nuts. Eat it with some unsweetened greek yogurt for a simple, tasty breakfast that will fuel your day.
Sprinkle on Salads – From savory to sweet, just about every salad imaginable can benefit from the added crunch, satisfying texture and delicious flavors nuts can offer.
Substitute Almond and Cashew Milks for Dairy – These creamy beverages are not only delicious, they are also great for your health, not to mention a great alternative to cow’s milk for anyone who is lactose intolerant.
Use in Baked Goods – From breads and muffins to pies and cookies, satisfy your sweet tooth with treats that contain nuts. That way, you can feel a little bit better about indulging!
Try Nut Oils and Butters
While cooking with nut oils can be tricky because they tend to become bitter if they gets too hot, they are tasty drizzled on bread and make an amazing addition to homemade salad dressings. Eating nut butters such as cashew or almond are a great way to switch things up if you like peanut butter; try them spread on toast, in a sandwich or as a dip for fresh fruit.