From a nutrition perspective, I can’t think of a better
snack than nuts. Dry-roasted or plain, salted or unsalted, nuts pack in
healthful fats, a host of vitamins and minerals, fiber, and little sodium (even
some salted ones have as little as 95 milligrams sodium per ounce). While a
one-ounce serving of nuts has more calories than pretzels, it also comes with
protein and fat, staving off hunger for longer than many starchy or sugary
And I’m not the only one who knows nuts are good, as a stand-alone snack or an ingredient in recipes. Some of
the latest research on these nutrient rich nuggets shows promise:
A review of studies published in 2001 showed that consuming
just one ounce of nuts — of any variety — up to five times a week is likely to help
reduce the risk of heart disease. (However, the results cite that it’s not just a
matter of adding nuts. One must replace other calories consumed with the nuts
as well as swap some of the artery-clogging saturated fat for the healthy
types of fat in nuts.)
The Nurses Health Study of more than 85,000 subjects also
linked nut eaters with a lower risk of heart disease risk factors than those
who did not consume nuts.
While vitamin E in supplement form hasn’t shown to be
effective in promoting health benefits, almonds supply vitamin E, an
antioxidant, which may — along with other nutrients in the nut — help prevent “bad”
LDL cholesterol oxidation, supporting heart health.
The May 2008 Journal of Nutrition issue includes a
preliminary study, possibly helping to explain the almond’s heart healthy
attributes. The article identifies additional antioxidants contained in the
skin of whole almonds, which may play a role in reducing oxidative stress as
well as reducing LDL cholesterol.
So instead of munching on animal crackers or pretzels, try a
serving of whole almonds. You’ll gain heart-healthy benefits
along with a satiating snack.
Quick Tip: Portion size matters. One ounce of almonds equals about 22 nuts, enough
to cover a square sticky note pad or enough to fill a quarter-cup dry measuring
cup. This serving size supplies about 164 calories, 3.4 grams fiber, and 15
grams fat (though only 1 gram saturated fat). The trick is managing portion
size and calories, which is hard to do with the satisfying crunch and delicate
flavor of almonds.
Kathy Kitchens-Downie, RD, is an Associate Food Editor for Cooking Light.