In a Nut Shell
As many of you may know fat is an essential part of a healthy diet. Fat is calorie dense nutrient (1 gram= 9kcal), therefore it is easy to consume too much of it. For good health it is important to maintain an optimal total fat intake of between 20-35% of total calories (based on a 2000kcal/day diet), limit your saturated fat and transfat intake and select unsaturated fats more often (Dietitian of Canada, 2012).
Dietitian’s of Canada recommends that a healthy eating plan should include: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean proteins (lean meats, poultry etc.), low fat dairy products, fish (especially fatty fish) and unsaturated oils. Nuts and seeds are also recommended and will be the focus of this piece. Different nuts and seeds have a varying amount of nutrients associated with lowering cholesterol and in turn helping prevent cardiovascular disease.
Nuts are an excellent source of vitamin E, an anti-oxidant, and magnesium, a major mineral (Thompson, J. et al., 2007). Vitamin E has been shown to protect immune function and inhibit oxidative stress to your cells (with the help of vitamin C, another anti-oxidant). Almonds and sunflower seeds are a particular good source for this vitamin (King, J. C. et al.,2008). The majority of the North American population falls short of the recommended intake for Magnesium. Magnesium is used by the body for numerous physiological processes, including energy production, cardiovascular and bone health (Thompson et al., 2007). You can find magnesium in other foods (for example breads) but a percentage of it is lost depending on the processing. Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, almonds and cashews are most abundant in this mineral.
Nuts and seeds are a rich source of many other vitamins and minerals, as well as monounsaturated fatty acids “MUFAs” and polyunsaturated fatty acids “PUFAs”. Additionally they are an added source of fibre ~Read: Adding up the Fibre~. Most tree nuts (almonds, brazil nut, cashews, walnuts etc) and peanuts (technically a legume) contain varying amount of phytochemicals. These bioactive compounds including carotenoids, phenolic acids and phytosterols; to name a few, are not fully understood but have been shown to promote health and reduced the risk of chronic disease (King, J. C. et al.,2008) . Phytosterols in particular have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol by decreasing the amount of dietary cholesterol absorbed in intestinal tract (King, J. C. et al., 2008 & Thompson J. et al., 2007) .
With all of these benefits why not add a few nuts into your lunch box. It is important for you to remember nuts and seeds are calorie dense and they are easy to over consume, therefore portion control is a must. Approximately one ounce is the recommended amount and will contain roughly 170 to 180 calories (Schardt D., 2005). Depending on your personal caloric needs the best way to add nuts and seeds into your diet would be to eat them instead of other foods that are less nutrient dense (ie chips, donuts, candies).
How many nuts and seeds are in one ounce?
|Almonds: 20-24||Hazelnuts: 18-20|
|Cashews: 16-18||Pecans: 18-20 halves|
|Macadamias: 10-12||Walnuts: 8-11 halves|
|Brazil Nuts: 6-8 – Great source of selenium, only mineral that is an anti-oxidant||Pistachios: 45-47|
|Pine Nuts: 150-157|
(Schardt D., 2005)
We do not expect you to count out each nut or seed to get the exact amount but it is good to have a general idea for portioning. You can also purchase small tin like the one below from the dollar store which will hold approximately one ounce.
Also keep in mind that one ounce of salted nuts contain about 100mg to 250mg of sodium so if you can, please select the “lightly salted” or unsalted options.
Schardt, D. (2005) Nuts to you! Good for you heart but watch your waistline. Nutrition Action Healthletter. Centre for Science in Public Interest. November Issue 2005 pg 8-9
Dietitians of Canada (2012) Dietary fats. Retrieved from http://www.dietitians.ca/Dietitians-Views/Dietary-Fats.aspx
King, J. C., Blumberg, J., Ingwersen, L., Jenab, M., & Tucker, K. L. (2008). Tree nuts and peanuts as components of a healthy Diet1,2. The Journal of Nutrition, 138(9), 1736S-1740S.
Thompson, J., Manore, M., Sheeshka, J.(2007) Nutrition a functional approach (1st ed). Toronto: ON. Pearson Education Canada