July 14, 2010

The squirrels are on to something....

In honour of my namesake I have decided to start my blog off talking about the health benefits of nuts. Research has shown they can reduce the risk heart disease and help weight control, all while being delicious!

Good for your heart
Nuts are high in fat, but it’s mostly the good fats – the ones that help reduce risk of heart disease. (I’ll tackle what are ‘good fats’ vs ‘bad fats’ in a future blog entry.)

Research suggests that eating a small handful of raw or dry roasted and unsalted nuts (30g) five times a week can help to lower blood cholesterol by ten percent. Why? The action of the good fats in nuts: polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats.

Good for weight loss
As part of a healthy, balanced diet a small handful of nuts have also been found to help weight control. The protein and fibre in nuts slows down your digestion and so stops you from getting hungry again soon. The fats also help by sending signals that you are full. Eating an afternoon snack of nuts means you are less likely to get hungry and overeat later in the day.

Which nut?
Almonds, cashews, macadamias, Brazil nuts, pistachios, pine nuts and walnuts are all good choices; just remember to go for raw or roasted, unsalted nuts.

How much of a good thing?
My husband (The Canuck) came home a couple of weeks ago and announced that he was going to start eating 67 grams of nuts every day. He had read an article that claimed this was the magic amount needed to reduce risk of heart disease. Now, this is all well and good, but 67 grams of nuts is a lot of energy for an afternoon snack: almost the same amount of energy as a full meal!

So yes, you can have too much of a good thing. Due to the high fat content, nuts do pack a good punch in terms of calories. A small handful is about 30 grams, which is an appropriate amount of calories for a snack. Any more than this and you are adding extra calories to your daily intake and risk weight gain. So, remember to replace your afternoon chocolate bar or biscuit with a handful of nuts rather than adding nuts as an extra.

The Canuck is working on a handy 30 gram daily nut dispenser as we speak, stay tuned.

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