Nuts are dense?calorically, that is. A small handful of cashews delivers 180 calories. However, if we can eat reasonable portions and not the whole bag, nuts and seeds are a valuable, if not required, part of a healthy diet.
Researchers found that regular nut eaters have lower risks of heart disease. In 1996, the Iowa Women's Healthy Study found that women who ate nuts less than four times a week were 40 percent less likely to die of heart disease. Two years later, another study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found a similar result in another group of women subjects. Furthermore, potential heart health benefits of nuts were also found among men. In 2002, the Physician's Health Study found that men who consumed nuts 2 or more times per week had reduced risks of sudden cardiac death. Good stuff.
Nuts are one of the best plant sources of protein, and are stocked with fiber, phytonutrients and antioxidants such as Vitamin E and selenium. They're also high in fat, but mostly the good Omega-3 variety that has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. Aim for one and a half ounces of unsalted nuts per day. Prime choices include hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts. Flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds also offer worlds of good.