Grit Blogs > Waking up in Kansas

Nuts: Nutritional Nuggets You’ll Want in Your Diet

By K.C. Compton


Tags: Nuts, Nut Nutrition, K.C. Compton,

KC ComptonPeople trying to lose weight or maintain weight loss frequently turn their back on nuts because the fat content puts them in the high-calorie-food category. However, nuts offer a lot of nutrition, not many carbohydrates and plenty of flavor. Small wonder some diet scientists now recommend we make them a bigger part of our diets.

Nuts are dense packages of protein and fat, but it is healthful, unsaturated fat, not the kind usually drenching French fries. And though they don’t have many vitamins, nuts do give us good amounts of potassium, magnesium and several other essential minerals. Eaten in moderation, they help us feel full and even might offer some protection against heart and vascular disease.

In one recent study, for example, Yale researchers reported that a daily dose of walnuts improved the blood-vessel health of type-2 diabetics.

After eight weeks on a diet containing about two ounces of walnuts daily, endothelial function (blood vessels doing their work) improved significantly compared to an unlucky control group that didn’t get to eat walnuts at all. In addition to improving the blood vessels, the walnut diet also somewhat increased fasting serum glucose, lowered total cholesterol and reduced LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) over the course of the trial. There was no weight gain during the trial.

According to the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Newsletter, these findings are in line with another recent study that showed walnuts associated with reduced cholesterol levels. Other research reports heart-health benefits for other nuts, including macadamias and pistachios.

Bear in mind that 2 ounces of walnuts (about 25 halves) contains roughly 300 calories, so these little tidbits aren’t “free,” if you’re watching your weight. But considering some of the stuff we could be snacking on for the same number of calories, this sounds like a pretty good nutritional bargain to me.

This study was done with a group of diabetics, but I’m completely willing to extrapolate its findings right into the palm of my hand and into a few walnuts or almonds on my morning yogurt. I like tossing a few toasted nuts – whatever I have on hand – into my pasta dishes, and I’ve reached a point where salads just don’t taste complete without a few nuts thrown in.

As you might imagine, I’m mightily relieved by the articles I’ve read today justifying my nutty behavior.

Here’s one of my favorite salads:

Small jar pickled beets
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (white balsamic is pretty)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large package fresh baby spinach, well-rinsed and drained
2 small oranges, peeled and separated into sections
Small red onion, sliced paper thin
½ cup gorgonzola cheese
¼ to ½ cup walnut pieces (toasted tastes better, though I rarely take this extra step)

Drain pickled beets. Blot the beets on a couple of paper towels to absorb any extra juice and slice in oblong strips. Toss beets, spinach and oranges with olive oil and vinegar to coat thoroughly. Sprinkle onion, cheese and walnut pieces over top of salad. Mangia!

k.c. compton
2/9/2011 9:43:00 AM

Cindy -- That sounds very tasty, too. I love the way we all borrow from each other's recipes and improvise our own interpretations. In music, we call that "the folk-music process." :=} --kc


cindy murphy
2/9/2011 8:40:12 AM

KC! I have to tell you. The other day, Hubs mentioned he was craving beets (which I thought was kind of weird); oh! I said, I know just the thing to satisfy your craving. I kind of improvised on your recipe, and ended up with a salad of green leaf lettuce and baby arugula, cooked and chopped (not pickled) beets, mandarin oranges, almond slivers, and crumbled feta topped with a not-as-healthy-as-your-vinaigrette but oh-so-good poppy seed dressing. (Dang, I forgot the onions!) But Yum! Definitely a make-often salad. Thanks for the idea!


sara mason
1/25/2011 4:20:36 PM

Dr Oz on tv says nuts are never 100% digested so eventhough they are high in fat, all of the fat never really gets absorbed by you. He says walnuts on steel cut oats are great for breakfast


susan hoffman
1/16/2011 6:03:04 PM

Here's a great way to keep nuts (especially walnuts and pecans) around. Take plain nuts - I buy them bulk from a nut company here - and soak them in water, with just a bit of salt, for 8-10 hours. Drain the water - spread the nuts out on a cookie sheet (blot any excess water) and low/slow roast them in the oven (100 to 150 degrees) for 16 to 24 hours. It takes a while, so some planning is needed, but it is so totally worth it. The nuts taste like butter (as we say - bhutta!) and there's no need for salt, seasonings, etc. (though you can). Easier to digest, more nutritous and they taste great.


chuck mallory
1/16/2011 10:30:07 AM

One way I've found to get more healthy nuts into my diet is buying raw, unsalted nuts and then toasting them all at once. This way I can avoid the salted variety. In a large baking sheet, I pour sections of each type, usually only three different type, toast for about 5 min. at 350F, then let cool. I put them into separate plastic bags in the fridge. (Nuts tend to get rancid due to the fat content.) Then I have them on hand for oatmeal, salads, and any other dish. @Cindy: You've never had a pickled beet? You're not livin' until you try one!


robyn dolan
1/12/2011 12:41:22 PM

mmm...I love nuts. Peanuts, almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, and sooo many others. My fave is a handful in oatmeal, or on a salad, or just a handful by itself!


k.c. compton
1/12/2011 12:38:03 PM

My morning habit is a handful of walnuts, cinnamon, and dried cranberries and raisins on a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal. That's luxury!


k.c. compton
1/11/2011 3:13:08 PM

I think a few minor indulgences make life sweet. Not going overboard, of course, but here and there ... ya' need a few peanuts. The peanut butter I get is from our natural foods coop and it's just peanuts, ground up. It's so thick it's nearly un-spreadable, but very nutritious, I think, with no added sugar or fillers. The stuff in jars with names most of us would recognize? Not so good anymore. --kc


nebraska dave
1/11/2011 12:39:34 PM

K.C. Almonds are one of the superfood groups according to one of my health concious friends. She always includes a handful of Almonds and a 1/2 cup of blueberries another super food. I'm sure all Grit blog followers know this but unfortunately peanuts are not a superfood and dry roasted can be quite dedrimental to health. Some peanut butters are somewhat OK but most of the creamy processed delightful tasting kinds are not. Drat!! I personally love the stuff. It was one of my main stables while attending the one room country school for two years. My first love for nuts is the in the shell unsalted roasted peanut. I try not to indulge more than a couple times a week and so far my cholestrol is somewhat OK. The good cholestrol is a little low but the bad is with in parameters for an old guy. Hopefully it will stay that way for a long time. I haven't gotten the diagnostic report for the last fluids check from last week so wish me luck with that. Have a very nutty day. :)


k.c. compton
1/11/2011 9:39:45 AM

Thanks. That's great news about almonds helping lower your cholesterol. That's part of why I eat walnuts or almonds daily, in addition to the loving-them part. I bought some pickled beets at a little Amish grocery this summer when I was in Wisconsin and they have turned out to be the best beets I've ever had. I grew up with pickled beets, though not home-pickled, and until just a few years ago, that's all I knew of beets. I am quite fond of them and also of pickled okra (the only way I really like okra, sad to say. Being a Southern girl, that's almost heresy, but there you have it). Stay warm & dry! --KC


cindy murphy
1/11/2011 7:25:04 AM

Mmmm, sounds wonderful, KC. I often add nuts to salads too - almonds are usually my choice. It's a cholesterol thing; mine is high, and a handful of almonds a day actually has helped reduce it (not to mention, I love almonds). I've made a similar to your recipe salad with oranges and almonds, and have used beets in salads also (not pickled though; I've never had a pickled beet). But I've never had them together in the same dish. It sounds interesting, and I'll have to give it a try. Thanks for the delicious sounding idea, and enjoy your day.