People 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!