Why are nuts so good for you?

Plus a SmartPoints guide to popular nuts.

 

Nuts might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about optimal foods for weight loss and maintenance. After all, a single serving of nuts is quite small and has a relatively high SmartPoints value when compared to other healthy foods. On the contrary, there’s no reason to forego nuts and nut butters if you’re a fan; they’re an amazing source of energy you can take with you wherever you go. Need some more convincing? Consider the fact that nuts contain a long list of important macro- and micronutrients including healthy fats, protein, dietary fibre, manganese, copper, and selenium. It’s officially time to go nuts for your favourite nuts!

 

A plant-based source of selenium

 

Nuts are a very good source of selenium, a trace element typically found in organ meats and seafood. Selenium is imperative for healthy thyroid function, immune system and metabolic health as well as DNA synthesis. While many nuts contain varying amounts of selenium, Brazil nuts are a particularly rich source of this important nutrient. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that eating two Brazil nuts every day had the same effect on the body as taking a daily selenium supplement.

 

Nuts are high in healthy fats

 

In addition to omega-3 fatty acids, nuts also contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, two types of unsaturated fats that have been linked to a reduction in LDL or “bad” cholesterol and to an increase in HDL or “good” cholesterol. A large-scale study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that subjects who ate nuts regularly were less likely to develop cardiovascular disease. Other studies have shown that regular consumption of nuts is linked to reduced inflammation and weight gain as well as improved cellular repair. 

 

What does a serving of nuts look like?

 

A single serving of nuts is 30 grams or one ounce. Due to variations in size, consider weighing nuts with a food scale for the most accurate serving size. 

 

  • 8 Brazil nuts (9 SmartPoints)
  • 24 almonds (5 SmartPoints)
  • 18 cashews (5 SmartPoints)
  • 15 pecan halves (6 SmartPoints)
  • 14 walnut halves (6 SmartPoints)
  • 12 macadamia nuts (7 SmartPoints)
  • 12 hazelnuts (6 SmartPoints)
  • 49 pistachios (5 SmartPoints)

 

What to look out for when shopping for nuts and nut butters

 

Always look for nuts that have been minimally processed and which are free from added salt, sugar, oils, or artificial flavouring. Nuts in their shell force you to slow down as you’re eating which in turn helps you pay attention to internal signs of satiety. When shopping for nut butters it’s especially important to read labels carefully. Look for nut butters that are made from at least 90 percent nuts without any added sugar or excess oil. Unlike nut butters containing preservatives, all-natural nut butters are not shelf stable and should be kept in the refrigerator to prevent the natural oils from turning rancid. To soften natural nut butter let it sit out on the counter at room temperature for 20 minutes before using.

 

Incorporating nuts into your eating plan

 

Whenever possible, eat nuts alongside your favourite ZeroPoints foods. Not only will you be able to enjoy nuts without breaking your SmartPoints bank, you’ll also find that the combination of dietary fibre, healthy fats, and protein will keep you feeling full and energized for hours.

 

  • Add a serving of almonds to plain fat free yogourt and cut-up fruit. If you’re craving a savoury snack substitute shelled pistachios and roasted vegetables for the almonds and fruit.
  • Add a half-serving of walnuts or cashews to a cheese plate for one along with fresh fruit, crudites, and rye or seed crackers.
  • Top a meal-sized salad with chopped nuts of your choice and dress with your favourite homemade or store-bought vinaigrette.
  • Keep a stash of pre-portioned nuts with you at all times in case of snack emergencies. Your purse, gym bag, glove compartment, and desk drawer are all great places to store nuts for those times when energy levels are particularly low.