This Is Nutty

Published January 1, 2003

The Food and Drug Administration says nuts may help lower elevated cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Most of the evidence comes from large population studies.

Though nuts are high in fat, it’s the unsaturated and beneficial kind. Macadamias and cashews were not included because they have higher levels of artery-clogging saturated fat. But the difference is slight. For example, cashews have three grams of saturated fat per ounce versus two for peanuts. Overall, nuts have 13 to 22 grams of total fat per ounce, and 160 to 200 calories.

Walnuts have the highest levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Almonds have the highest levels of vitamin E and calcium. Peanuts, which technically aren’t nuts but legumes, contain reservatrol, a healthy compound also found in grapes.

Truth is, no nut has been proven better than another, so eat a variety but don’t overdo it. Nuts are high in calories. Limit your intake to an ounce or two a day–about a handful. That’s enough to provide health benefits without causing weight gain.

Avoid heavily salted nuts. Stay clear of the extra sugar, fat, and calories in honey-roasted and candied nuts. Don’t assume nuts can make you healthy if your diet is already lousy. No food by itself is healthy.

IT’S YOUR HEALTH is written by Conrad Meier, senior fellow in health policy at The Heartland Institute. This program is produced as a public service by Radio America. Meier passed away unexpectedly on March 18, 2005.