Nutty Nutrition

Nuts provide essential fats we need. Learn why they are an important part of a healthy diet.

Nutty Nutrition

It's true — nuts are loaded with fat. In fact, one cup of nuts contains close to 800 calories and 70 grams of fat. Does this mean that you should never eat nuts again? Definitely not. Everyone needs some fat to maintain good health, and nuts provide the essential fats we need in their most wholesome and natural form.

Concerned about heart disease? You will be happy to know that nuts are naturally cholesterol-free and that their fat is mostly unsaturated, so they do not raise blood cholesterol levels. In fact, a number of studies have shown that eating an ounce of nuts (3 to 4 tablespoons) at least five times per week may reduce your risk of heart disease by about 35 percent.

If you look at the nutritional profile of nuts, it's easy to see how these tasty morsels might protect against heart disease, as well as many other health problems. Nuts are rich in a variety of nutrients that many people do not eat in sufficient amounts. For instance, nuts provide important minerals like magnesium, copper, zinc, and manganese, and are a good source of vitamin E. Nuts are also one of the best dietary sources of boron, which can help prevent osteoporosis. And Brazil nuts are the richest known source of selenium, a powerful antioxidant. In addition, nuts supply a variety of phytochemicals — beneficial compounds found only in plant foods that protect against cancer, heart disease, and many other health problems.

To bring out the flavor of both nuts and seeds, try toasting them. Toasting intensifies the flavors of nuts and seeds so much that you can halve the amount used. Simply arrange the nuts or seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake at 350°F for 8 to 10 minutes (5 to 6 minutes for chopped nuts) or until lightly browned with a toasted, nutty smell. Watch the nuts closely during the last couple of minutes of baking, as they tend to brown quickly. To save time, toast a large batch and store the extras in an airtight container in the refrigerator. That way, you'll always have a supply ready for all your cooking adventures.