Healthy Gourmet Gifts offers several gift basket options featuring nuts such as our Diabetic Premium and For the Athlete and we will gladly add some nuts to any basket, see our Create Your Own option. Our product line includes Summer Kitchen’s Gingered Almonds, California Pistachios, Trophy Farms All Natural Almonds, Eden Organic All Mixed Up with dried fruit, seeds and nuts, and Nuts to You Macadamia Cashew Nut Butter.
The Nut Case
After years of being frowned upon by fat-phobic nutritionists—and being relegated to the “Use Sparingly” ghetto at the top of the government’s food pyramid—nuts are starting to look like nutritional heroes. Not a day goes by, it seems, without the release of another study confirming the health benefits of nuts, from reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer to a possible role in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
Evidence is most convincing in the area of heart health. Most recently, data from the ongoing Physicians’ Health Study, which followed over 21,000 male physicians for more than 17 years, showed that those doctors who reported eating an ounce of nuts two or more times a week had a 47 percent lower risk of sudden heart-disease death, and a 30 percent lower risk of coronary heart-disease death, than non-nut-eaters. This follows on the heels of other large-scale trials, such as the Nurses’ Health Study (86,000 women) and the Adventist Health Study (31,000 Seventh-Day Adventists), which found heart-attack risk reductions of nearly one-third and one-half, respectively, when frequent nut-eaters and non-nut-eaters were compared.
Ironically, it may be the fat content of nuts that accounts for their seeming health benefits; nuts are undeniably rich in fat, chiefly monounsaturated fat, which is increasingly recognized as having cholesterol-lowering properties. But that’s not the whole story: according to a recent review, when nuts are added to experimental diets, subjects’ cholesterol levels tend to drop more than would have been predicted by the dietary-fat manipulations alone, suggesting that other substances in nuts have heart-healthy effects. Most nuts are rich in fiber, vitamin E, magnesium and folic acid—all known to help reduce the risk of heart disease (and, in some cases, cancer). There’s also evidence that substances found in nuts, such as plant sterols and arginine, an amino acid, may account for some of the cardiovascular benefits.
Most nutrition authorities agree that a moderate amount of nuts daily—an ounce a day, or around five ounces per week—is a sensible target to aim for, especially if the nuts replace other fatty foods. Nibbling on a handful of almonds instead of potato chips doesn’t seem to cause weight gain. One reason that nuts may not be as fattening as previously feared is that they are high in fiber and not all of the fat is completely absorbed by the human body.
Peanuts are highest in protein and folate, followed closely by almonds. Walnuts are rich in linolenic acid, which helps reduce blood cholesterol. Almonds and hazelnuts are high in vitamin E, an antioxidant. Hazelnuts are a good source of copper and rich in magnesium—both cardioprotective. Brazil nuts, high in selenium, may help protect against cancer. Macadamias are among the highest in fat, but most of it is unsaturated.
Adding to the case for nuts, a recent government study found that people who regularly eat nuts tend to have healthier diets overall than non-nut eaters—and, surprisingly, they derived a smaller percentage of their calories from fat. The trick, it seems, is moderation—learning to stop at one ounce a day. This equates to a level 1/4-cup measure or a large handful (for those who like to count, 30 almonds or 20 walnut halves).
For healthy nut snacks, try these recipes:
Homemade Trail Mix: Combine equal amounts of whole shelled (unpeeled) almonds, unsalted dry-roasted peanuts, dried cranberries and chopped pitted dates. Add a handful of apricots or other dried fruit. Store in plastic bags for up to 2 weeks at room temperature.
Spiced Almonds: Toss 1 cup whole shelled (unpeeled) almonds with 1 teaspoon olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper in a pie pan. Bake at 350°F, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and lightly toasted, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.