Eating healthy foods can be a challenge with our busy lifestyles, but it’s important to take care of ourselves. One easy way to add some nutrition is by eating nuts. Nuts help lower LDL, the “bad” cholesterol and may help in fighting heart disease.
Though they do contain a lot of calories and fat, it’s the good kind; unsaturated fat. They’re quick and easy snacks since they require no preparation or cooking, unless you want to roast them.
One of the healthiest nuts, almonds have more calcium than other nuts and lots of vitamin E, which may prevent plaque development in the arteries. Like most nuts, they also contain a good amount of protein. Almonds have about 5 grams.
Another healthy contender, walnuts are rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid. Walnuts offer anti-inflammatory benefits, and omega-3’s are believed to help fight many chronic diseases, especially heart disease.
These little green wonders have a respectable 6 grams of protein per ounce and contain two amino acids – lutein and zeaxanthin, both important for healthy eyes. They have high levels of antioxidants and are a good source of vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 can help with moods and depression, as well as immune system functions. Add that pistachios are the lowest calorie nut, and you have a winner.
A cheaper alternative to many nuts, peanuts have no cholesterol-lowering properties, but they are worth including in your diet. Peanuts contain more folate than other nuts and come packed with about 7 grams of protein per ounce.
Macadamia nuts are more expensive than some other nuts, but they improve both LDL and HDL cholesterol. They do not contain as much protein as other nuts, having only about 2 grams per ounce. Macadamias are also on the high end of the scale when it comes to calories, containing about 200 calories per ounce.
They are still beneficial to overall health, but you might want to choose some of the other varieties of nuts over macadamias, especially given their cost.
Eating nuts as part of an overall healthy diet can have many benefits, especially when it comes to heart disease. Most nuts have a decent amount of fiber and can reduce LDL cholesterol. Though they can be high in fat and calories, substituting them for the unhealthy saturated fats like those in dairy products and meat will help them pack the most punch.
Just as with all foods, moderation is key. One portion is usually about a small handful of nuts. And although the price tag can seem higher than with other snacks like chips, the health benefits are worth the cost. Even the “least healthy” nuts are better than most of today’s preservative-laden chips and sugary snacks.
The little bit of effort and cost invested in healthier snacks now can save you money down the road in health care costs. Remember: you can’t put a price tag on good health.
Jessica Bosari enjoys writing about nutrition for Nutritionist-World.com. The site helps culinary arts students find information on culinary colleges and chef salaries.