We’ve all been at a point in our lives where we’ve opened up a fresh bag of potato chips with the intention of only eating a handful, and then we’re surprised when we’re taking the entire bag to the face to salvage the remaining three crumbs. Or maybe you had enough self-control to put the bag back in the pantry, congratulating yourself for only eating half of it instead of the whole thing. Once you cleared your cabinets of all chips, you promised yourself you’d find an alternative snack that’s less shameful and healthier. Suddenly on the evening news a story flashes about all the health benefits nuts provide. Sold, there’s the alternative that will surely do the trick.
Nuts are a natural source of heart-healthy fats, proteins, fiber and even essential vitamins and minerals. But they’re also very high in calories. Switching to nuts is a wise decision, but it’s important to understand that moderate consumption is still important. So feel free to go nuts, just don’t go too nuts.
There are three types of nuts that trump all other nuts macronutrient ratios: almonds, cashews, and pistachios. They also contain fiber that helps lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. The 1 ounce serving provides you with about 160 calories. This single serving of nuts is packed with nutrients that leave you feeling full and satisfied for longer than any amount of potato chips would.
- Almonds (23 nuts): 6 grams protein, 14 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of fiber
- Cashews (16-18 nuts): 5 grams of protein, 13 grams of fat, 1 gram of fiber
- Pistachios (49 nuts): 6 grams of protein, 13 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber
In addition to the macronutrient profile of nuts, they contain many other beneficial vitamins and minerals. Some of these include…
- Vitamin B-6- helps convert food into energy, and plays a role in protein metabolism.
- Vitamin E- works as an antioxidant, and fights against free radicals.
- Thiamin- plays a role in converting food into cellular energy.
- Copper- helps promote proper growth of the body, prevents premature aging, improves the health of connective tissues, and aids in energy production
- Phosphorus- bone formation, digestion, protein formation, hormone balance, energy, cellular repair, and nutrient utilization.
- Magnesium-maintains bodily nerves, muscles and bones, helps with protein synthesis, can help regulate heart rhythm, and reduces osteoporosis.
All nuts provide the body with a dose of omega-3 fatty acids, with walnuts providing the highest. However, some nuts contain traces of harmful omega-6 fatty acids because of the way they are processed. These nuts are roasted in hydrogenated oils. Not only are you consuming higher quantities of harmful fats, but the high temperatures at which the nuts are roasted destroys the nutrient content of the nut itself. Some nuts can also be coated in excess sugar and sodium. You don’t have to be paranoid when purchasing nuts, just make sure you take a second to read the label and find out how they’re prepared.
Feel free to go a little nuts with how you eat them. Just grabbing a handful is always tasty, but nobody is holding you back from getting creative either. Here are some ways I like to eat them.
- A handful of almonds or pistachios over plain yogurt with blueberries & a sprinkle of cinnamon
- A handful of almonds or walnuts over a sweet potato
- Blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries, with your choice of nut
- Almonds, pistachios, cashews or walnuts ground up with parsley and served over chicken, pork or salmon
- Spinach, strawberries, walnuts or almonds, blueberries, and feta
There’s plenty of other ways to enjoy them, there’s really no limits.
If we disregard portion control, we can consume a large amount of our total daily intake in one sitting. It’s easy to get carried away with nuts, they’re small and addictive once you start eating them. While 1 ounce is only 160 calories, it’s easy to eat 3-4 times the serving size. An innocent 160 calories can turn into 480 without even realizing it. Just be conscious of how much you’re eating. I was guilty of this, too. I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t losing weight when I was training for my first marathon. I traced it back to my nut consumption. Except in my case I was eating 6 times the daily recommended portion. Once I got that under control, the weight started melting off again.
If you’re making the transition from junk food to a nutrient dense nut then you should definitely give yourself a pat on the back. You’re heading in the right direction. Just make sure that you don’t get too carried away with how much you’re eating. Give yourself a chance to be full from the serving size. You’ll find yourself with more energy, and feeling fuller for longer periods of time.