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May 25, 2011

Benefits of nuts and seeds

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center will provide a guest post on healthy eating. This week, Amanda Tauber (pictured) weighs in on nuts and seeds.

If you’re looking for a great snack with healthy fats and a good source of protein, don’t overlook nuts and seeds. Throwing some walnuts into a salad takes little effort and adds a lot of great nutrition to your meal. There are many different types of nuts and seeds that can be used in a variety of recipes or be eaten by themselves.

Nuts and seeds are great sources of key nutrients the body needs to function properly. According to the American Dietetic Association, nuts and seeds are an important source of fat, containing mostly mono and polyunsaturated fats, which have been shown to lower LDL “bad” cholesterol and raise your HDL “good” cholesterol. Nuts and seeds contain alpha linolenic acid (a type of omega-3 fatty acid). Omega-3’s are important in reducing your risk for heart disease.

The majority of calories come from their fat content. The other bit of calories comes from protein, which can help build muscle and keep your appetite satisfied. As far as the micronutrient content, potassium, vitamin E, zinc, iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and folate are also found in nuts and seeds. Fiber is another heart-healthy benefit of nuts and seeds.

Since the fat content of nuts and seeds is high, it’s important to watch your portion sizes. One serving of almonds (about 160 calories) is equal to one-third cup, which can be one handful for some people, so be sure to pay attention to how many handfuls you take. Three handfuls of nuts can amount to nearly 500 calories (400 calories coming from fat alone). If you’re trying to gain weight, nuts and seeds can be an easy way to add calories without eating a lot of food. A serving of sunflower seeds is only one-quarter cup but provides 205 calories. Be sure to check food labels for each individual type of nut or seed since calories, fat and protein content may vary. Also, some varieties come with added salt, so examine packages to find raw, unsalted nuts and seeds.

Eating nuts and seeds by themselves can get a little boring after a while. So add some walnuts to your salad for added omega-3 benefits or topping your yogurt with almonds for added protein. You can even make trail mix at home for a healthy on-the-go snack. Check out the American Heart Association’s website for its recipe “Take a Break Snack Mix.”

Nuts and seeds are easy to eat, take little to no preparation and come in many varieties to try.

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Nutrition
        

Comments

Great post! Nuts are a fantastic way to have a nutritious snack that will fill you up - and not leave you hungry. My favorite website for healthy snack ideas is http://www.snack-girl.com/

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