Going Nuts for Heart Health
An easy way to improve your heart health this year might be as simple as adding a handful of nuts to your diet.
According to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, people who eat nuts live longer and have a lower risk of heart disease. In fact, research shows that people who eat nuts five times per week have a 29 percent reduced risk of dying of heart disease.
Tara LaRowe, UW Health clinical nutritionist notes that in addition to the study, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved a Qualified Health claim that states: Eating 1.5 oz per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce risk of heart disease.
She adds, "There are very few food health claims, so this means there is a lot of evidence to the health benefits of eating nuts!"
LaRowe explains that most nuts, in general, can be part of a healthy eating plan. She recommends choosing nuts that contain less than 4 g saturated fat per 1.5oz serving. These include:
- Pine nuts
The high concentration of nutrients and unsaturated fatty acids in nuts has beneficial effects related to coronary heart disease and certain risk factors for heart disease. Tree nuts are plant-based proteins that contain fiber and combination of vitamins and minerals. Additionally, they are rich in plant stanols and unsaturated fatty acids that are heart healthy.
LaRowe recommends incorporating nuts into your meals or snacks. She says, "They can be eaten alone or in a trail mix, tossed in with salads, mixed into quick breads (muffins), added to vegetable side dishes or to give a dessert some added nutrition such as chocolate and hazelnuts, or a small scoop of ice cream topped with nuts."
LaRowe also notes, "Although nuts are packed with nutrition, they are also very calorically dense. Therefore, when monitoring weight, it is essential to keep portions in control."
A one ounce serving of nuts can range from 160-200 calories. She advises using the following measurements for portion control:
One handful of nuts (one ounce)
- 1 oz almonds = 23 nuts
- 1 oz walnuts = 14 halves
- 1 oz hazelnuts = 21 nuts
As you look at ways to improve your health, adding nuts to a healthy eating plan is a simple and delicious way to help take care of your heart.
Nuts - A Great Snack
Nuts make for a quick and delicious snack. But sometimes it is hard to control portions, and therefore to control calories. LaRowe recommends roasting nuts to help with this.
She explains, "Roasting intensifies flavors and gives a more satisfying feel. Then you can add roasted nuts to cereals/oatmeal, yogurt, in pancakes, waffles and quick bread." View directions for roasting nuts
She also recommends making your own trail mix. Her favorite combination is a mixture of the following:
• 1 cup of whole grain cereal (such as Kashi Heart to Heart),
• 2 Tbs nuts,
• 2 Tbs dried fruit
• 1 Tbsp chocolate chips
Pack in snack bags and you have a quick and healthy snack to get you through the day!