Nuts: Chock Full of Healthy Nutrients (cont.)

Pump Up the Heart

The healthy fats appear to be the secret nut ingredient that prevents heart disease. Adding to the power of the heart-healthy fats, the fiber in nuts has also been shown to lower cholesterol levels.

"Our epidemiological studies have shown eating about one ounce of nuts every day will reduce the risk of heart disease in the long run by 30%," Frank Hu, MD, PhD, associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in July 2003.

Nuts can also help lower LDL "bad" cholesterol and raise HDL "good" cholesterol. "Almost all types of nuts have high amounts of mono- and polyunsaturated fats, and when you substitute this kind of good fat for carbohydrates and saturated fat, your LDL will go down," Hu said.

Stop Diabetes

There is an epidemic of type 2 diabetes in the U.S., but research suggests that nuts may lower the risk. Women who eat nuts at least five times a week had a 30% reduction in diabetes risk over women who never ate nuts, according to a study in the Nov. 27, 2002, issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers are not sure if it is the fiber, magnesium, healthy fat, or phytochemicals responsible for the lowered risk.

Dream Come True

To find a food that is delicious, nutritious, and filling is a dieter's dream.

Several studies have shown that eating small amounts of nuts helps dieters lose weight because the fiber and protein help dieters feel full longer. Dieters are less like to overeat and more successful at losing weight.

Dieters also stick with their eating plans longer if nuts are included, according to a December 1999 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Dieters did not feel like they were on a diet when they were allowed to eat nuts.

Other studies have shown that women who snack on nuts tend to weigh less than those who do not.

1 Ounce, Not 1 Pound

When you add nuts to your diet, you add the health benefits but you also add calories.

The goal is to eat nuts instead of other fat sources in the diet. Maureen Ternus, RD, nutrition expert for the International Tree Nut Council, recommends substituting nuts for other, less nutrient-dense foods.

"It is important to decrease calories from other sources, otherwise extra calories from nuts can negate the health benefits by leading to weight gain," she advises.

A 1 oz serving of nuts contains between 160 and 200 calories, most of which come from the heart-healthy, monounsaturated fat.

The size of a 1 oz serving of nuts also varies depending on the type of nut. That's about 47 shelled pistachios, 30 peanuts, 24 almonds, 20 pecan halves or hazelnuts, and 14 walnut halves.

Nutty Tips

People usually eat nuts on their own, by the handful, which can be a dangerous practice. You won't feel deprived when you top your apple or celery slices with peanut butter. Keep portions small and avoid mindless eating: