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updated: 12/7/2010 10:27 AM

Chestnuts unique from other nuts

Ask the nutrionist

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Q. How does the nutritional value of chestnuts compare to other nuts?

A. Chestnuts are really quite different nutritionally than other nuts, such as walnuts, almonds and cashews. The fat in these other nuts is an unsaturated, healthful type of fat, but because these other nuts are high in fat they are concentrated in calories, so portion control is important.

Chestnuts contain very little fat, so the same portion contains only 20 to 25 percent of the calories found in most other nuts.

On the other hand, most nuts (1 ounce or about cup) are a good source of protein, making them a great option to include in hunger-satisfying snacks or as part of a meatless meal like a pasta and vegetable casserole or stir-fry.

In contrast, even a whole cup of roasted chestnuts can't be counted as a protein source. In some ways, chestnuts seem nutritionally closer to whole grains; but grains don't supply vitamin C, and just one handful of roasted chestnuts is rated as an excellent source. Chestnuts are also extremely low in sodium, making them a great replacement for high-calorie, high-sodium snacks and party foods.

• Provided by the American Institute for Cancer Research. More about the group and its New American Plate program at aicr.org.

Q. I became a vegetarian to lose weight, but it's not working. Why?

A. Vegetarian eating can be very nutritious and sometimes the switch leads to weight loss, but it's not an automatic ticket for weight loss.

To lose weight, you've got to eat fewer calories than you burn up. Regular exercise is an important part of helping that to occur. Next, consider whether the foods you eat are very concentrated in calories. Some foods vegetarians eat as sources of protein -- such as legumes, nuts, seeds, and cheese -- are actually higher in calories than poultry and lean meat. These plant sources of protein are important, but need to be balanced with plenty of low-calorie vegetables.

Look at what you drink, too. Soft drinks aren't the only beverages in which calories add up quickly; the same is true for juice, sweetened milk and milk alternative drinks, and alcohol.

Also consider whether you might be eating portions larger than you really need. Overeating, even with healthful food, will almost surely promote excess weight. Studies suggest that if people who are overeating take 25 percent smaller portions (e.g. cup instead of 1 cup), they can often reduce calorie consumption without noticing any increase in hunger.

• Provided by the American Institute for Cancer Research. More about the group and its New American Plate program at aicr.org.

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