Nuts can be part of a well-balanced diet
A well-balanced diet should contain a wide variety of food from the different food groups in the Healthy Diet Pyramid. Nuts belong to the ‘Meat & Alternatives’ food group because they are rich in protein. They also good sources of vitamins such as vitamin E and folate as well as minerals such as potassium, iron, zinc, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and selenium.
Heart healthy nuts
Nuts contain mainly unsaturated fats. These fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats) help to improve heart health by reducing total and LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol levels in the blood. In addition to the unsaturated fat content, it is likely that several other components in nuts such as fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals work together to improve heart health.
Eat nuts in moderation
Although nuts contain healthful unsaturated fat, they are generally high in total fat. Hence, it is important to eat nuts in moderation because regardless the type, fat contains twice the amount of calories per gram as compared to carbohydrates or protein. A diet high in fat may lead to excessive calorie intake and increase the risk of becoming overweight. It is also important to know that just by eating nuts and not cutting back on foods that are high in saturated fats (e.g. animal fat, full-cream dairy products, dishes containing coconut milk, deep-fried food and food prepared with palm-based vegetable oil) and trans fat (e.g. pastries, cakes, cookies and deep-fried foods) won’t do your heart any good.
How many nuts are recommended?
You may include a small handful of nuts or ¼ cup (40 g) a few times a week as part of a well-balanced diet. To maximize the health benefits of nuts, consume a variety of nuts as they contain different amount of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. For example, almonds are rich in vitamin E while Brazil nuts are rich in selenium. Nuts can be enjoyed as a convenient snack in school or at work. It can also be added to salads, stir-fries, pastas and rice dishes.
prepared and written by Zac Leow