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posted: 12/17/2015 6:00 AM

Help your heart with 1-ounce of nuts a day

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  • Nuts and seeds contain a good deal of fat, but it's fat that lowers heart disease risk.

    Nuts and seeds contain a good deal of fat, but it's fat that lowers heart disease risk.

 
By Marsha McCulloch, M.S., R.D.
Environmental Nutrition

Nuts and seeds are super-healthy little nuggets of nutrition that often, along with the butters made from them, are maligned for being too high in fat and calories. While there's no arguing they contain a good deal of fat, that's no reason to keep them out of your diet. In fact, the fat content of nuts is one of the reasons you should eat them regularly; specifically, a handful (1 ounce) a day.

Nuts and seeds are rich in unsaturated fats, which offer health benefits, including a lower risk of heart disease. In addition, the presence of fat in a food means it takes longer to digest and metabolize, helping you feel satisfied for a longer time after you eat. That's why studies show that nut consumption is not associated with weight gain. And these foods are also convenient, shelf stable sources of high quality protein and fiber, which also help with maintaining a healthy weight.

At one time, you were limited to just a handful of different types of nuts, seeds and nut/seed butters in supermarkets. But today -- because of the recognition that these foods are healthful and delicious -- you can find a wide variety in most stores.

Before you dive too deep into the nut jar, check out these tips.

• Heat them up. To bring out the flavor, try toasting nuts and seeds before eating them. Sprinkle an even layer on the bottom of a dry, heavy skillet and heat, over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently until they start to brown slightly and give off a toasty aroma.

• Practice portion control. While nuts and seeds are healthy, they also are calorie-dense. It's easy to go overboard when you're enjoying them. The best way to prevent that is to portion out a serving size (1 ounce -- about 1/4 cup -- nuts/seeds; 2 tablespoons nut/seed butter) before digging in.

• Include them daily. Nuts and seeds add a delicious flavor and crunchy texture to meals and snacks throughout the day. In the morning, sprinkle them into oatmeal, yogurt, cereal or even pancake batter. At lunch, sprinkle nuts or seeds on a salad. For dinner, add them to pasta dishes, use them as a crunchy coating for fish or chicken or blend them into a delicious pesto.

• Environmental Nutrition is the award-winning independent newsletter written by nutrition experts dedicated to providing readers up-to-date, accurate information about health and nutrition in clear, concise English. For more information, visit www.environmentalnutrition.com.

2015, BELVOIR MEDIA GROUP, LLC.