I’m surely not the first to tell you—nuts are good for us. (Love ’em already? Try our nuttiest recipes ever!) Nuts provide plant-based protein, healthy unsaturated fats, Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, Vitamin E and fiber. According to the Mayo Clinic, nuts also help lower your LDL cholesterol (the “bad” one), and they can fight back against inflammation linked to heart disease. What’s more, they may reduce your chances of developing blood clots.
Which Nuts Are Best?
Almonds contain calcium and 37% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin E per one ounce (28g) serving. Pistachios are high in fiber, and eating 2-3 ounces per day may help boost your HDL cholesterol (the “good” kind!). Walnuts are packed with Omega-3 fatty acids. Some evidence suggests that cashews, pecans, macadamia nuts and Brazil nuts may help to reduce inflammation. Even peanuts, which are technically legumes rather than tree nuts, have some health benefits.
How to Add Them to Your Diet
Because nuts are high in calories and fats, you may want to limit your daily consumption to one ounce (28g) or so. Here are some fun ways to sneak them into your daily meal plan.
- Pack a scant handful along with an apple or other fruit for a no-fuss healthy afternoon snack at the office—or anywhere!
- Nuts can be easily reduced to a meal or powder that you can add to everything from shakes to smoothies, or as toppings on a salad or sandwich. Use a mortar and pestle or your food processor to make them the texture you prefer. You can store the processed nuts in the refrigerator to use throughout the week.
- Instead of adding croutons to your salad, get that satisfying crunch with nuts.
- Chopped pecans added to breakfast cereal rather than sugar will provide some sweetness along with their health benefits—and extra fiber!
- Make a nut sandwich! Combine one ounce (2 tablespoons) of finely chopped walnuts, 20 chopped green olives, and a tablespoon of low-fat mayo or salad dressing to create a tasty 300-calorie spread to smooth over whole wheat bread.
- Nuts make a delicious topping for baked fish, especially salmon. (Not to mention the pretty presentation these dishes make. A feast for the eyes, too!)
- Add nuts to your side dishes. Think of combinations like brown rice and chopped pecans, green beans and almonds, pistachios with peas and carrots. Nuts are so versatile; you can have a lot of fun being creative with them!
- Stir-fries can really get some extra pizzaz and crunch by adding nuts. We all know about Thai cooking and peanuts. Why not experiment with a cashew chicken stir-fry, or toss some chopped pecans into your favorite spicy beef-and-pepper recipe?