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Going nuts over nuts – a healthy choice

Well the Christmas season is over. Trying to squeeze into your pre-holiday jeans? Wish you'd eaten just a little less? No wonder - all those tasty temptations lying around just had to be sampled. You ...

Karen Bowen
Karen Bowen

Well the Christmas season is over. Trying to squeeze into your pre-holiday jeans? Wish you’d eaten just a little less? No wonder – all those tasty temptations lying around just had to be sampled. You didn’t want to offend the hands that worked so hard preparing them (this excuse works for me).

Now is the season of guilt…why did we eat so much?

But wait – you may have underestimated the healthfulness of one great Christmas tradition.

I’m talking about all the little glass bowls of nuts that sit out, just waiting for you to nibble. In the past 10 years, we’ve heard a lot about the dangers of fats…especially the fats found in nuts.

Well, recent studies have shown that nuts (in reasonable quantities) have many health benefits…even with the fat.

Let’s spend a minute on fat, itself, first. Everyone needs some fat. It is necessary to carry and store vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fat helps your body absorb Vitamin D – so, calcium becomes more available to your body (particularly bones and teeth).

You need fat to convert beta-carotene into Vitamin A. Many of your internal organs, such as kidneys, heart, and liver are protected and held in place by fat deposits. A layer of fat just under your skin acts as an insulator and keeps your inner body temperature consistent – no matter what the weather is like outside.

When you’re doing runs in the north over the next few months you’ll be thankful for a bit of insulation while you’re running from the truck parking area to the coffee shop and back!

Fat preserves your body heat. As well, eating fat makes you feel full longer. By slowing down the stomach’s secretion of hydrochloric acid, fat slows your digestion process. And besides that – fat tastes good!

Nothing like popcorn with lots of butter, a nice marbled steak – grilled to perfection, or some broccoli with cheese sauce. Don’t deny it – no fat is boring!

Now let’s get to the nuts (which do contain quite a bit of fat). Nuts also have a lot of calories, but…all nuts are not created equal. Remember when you sat down at a friend’s over the holidays – right in front of that tempting bowl of nuts? By the end of the visit, the bowl was empty. Where did it all go?

Let’s say you ate a cup of nuts. About how many calories did you eat? That depends. If almonds: 800; brazil nuts: 2,000; cashews: 600; hazelnuts: 500; mixed nuts: 1,300; peanuts: 1,400; pecans: 715; pistachio: 600; and walnuts: 650.

Or, you might like to nibble on seeds. One cup of pumpkin seeds: 1,300; sesame seeds: 1,300; and sunflower seeds: 600. The difference in calories is primarily determined by the amount of fat contained in the nut – but many of the nutrients are the same. So, choose wisely.

None of these nuts are bad for you (unless you have an allergy), but some are better for you. I prefer almonds.

Almonds are in the low-range for calories, and have been found to improve people’s health! They do not create an acid residue when your body digests them – they help your body stay out of an acidic state. As we touched on in an earlier article – cancers only grow in an acid environment.

And cancers can’t grow if your body is not acidic. This is definitely a plus. Also, it has been found that by eating a handful of almonds every day, you can reduce your bad cholesterol by about 20 per cent (a pain-free and tasty treatment!). Not only that, almonds are convenient.

My husband buys almonds in bulk every week. He puts them into a zip-lock bag and sets them on the passenger seat of his truck. When he gets the urge for a munchie, the almonds are right there – no special packaging or storage needed. When you go to buy them, choose the unroasted ones. They are better for you, since the roasting process kills some of the nutrients.

Almonds are a good source of phosphorus and calcium, too. Calcium in the blood is responsible for smooth muscle contraction, blood clotting, and nerve impulses. If you don’t get enough calcium through food sources, your body robs your bones and teeth – leading to cavities and weakened bones.

Phosphorus usually accompanies calcium in the crystals of the bone and is needed for energy metabolism. Phosphorus is a vital part of the genetic material of DNA and RNA – the building blocks of life.

So – if you’re nuts about nuts – don’t deprive yourself! Get yourself some almonds. They’re tasty, convenient, and good for you. Just remember – moderation!

– Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at

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