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Health in a nutshell

Eat nuts in moderation and you won't be piling on the calories. But you will be piling on health benefits.

Nutty Spinach, Turkey and Orange Salad
Makes 4 servings

7 cups fresh baby spinach
1 medium navel orange or large tangerine, peeled, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 heaping cup cooked, diced turkey breast
2 scallions, trimmed and chopped
cup shelled, roasted, salted pistachios
cup coarsely chopped walnuts
cup orange juice
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon mild-tasting olive oil
teaspoon salt
teaspoon each: curry powder, smoked paprika and pepper

Combine spinach, orange, turkey, scallions, pistachios and walnuts in large salad bowl. Combine juice, vinegar, oil, salt, curry powder, paprika and pepper in small bowl. Stir well. Pour over salad just before serving. Toss gently but well.

Each serving has: 232 calories; 13.5 grams total fat; 16 grams protein; 12 grams carbohydrates; 30 milligrams cholesterol; 385.5 milligrams sodium and 3.5 grams dietary fiber. CTW Features

Nuts in some cases help improve the body's reaction to stress and provide better control for type 2 diabetics. Eating nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. Nuts can even help with weight control.

In a nutshell — nuts eaten in moderation are good for you.

Nuts also can be a protein source. Just be sure to mix nuts with other protein foods to avoid adding calories. One-half ounce of nuts is considered equivalent in protein to 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish.

The biggest misconception people have about including nuts in their diet is “that nuts are high-fat and so are not healthful,” said Alice Henneman, educator at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, Lancaster County.

But we now know that nuts have the right kind of fat — heart-healthy unsaturated fat that may help lower bad cholesterol — and not the risky trans-fat and saturated fat.

“Trans fat are things we stay away from,” said Cindy Brison, educator at the UNL extension service/Douglas County. “Trans fat can contribute to cardiovascular disease.“

Check the “Nutrition Facts” on the food product's label for trans fats. Also look for the serving size for nuts, which is one ounce daily.

Heart Health, Diabetes and Weight Loss

Walnuts are the only nuts with significant omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for heart health. A small amount of walnuts and walnut oil also may blunt your body's response to stress, according to research at Penn State.

Eating walnuts and walnut oil lowered the volunteers' resting blood pressure and blood-pressure responses. Although current studies emphasize walnuts and pistachios, you don't need to stick with those nuts.

“Remember if you're eating nuts, decrease something else you're eating,“ said Brison, who stresses the importance of eating high-calorie nuts in moderation.

Keeping weight down could be aided by a handful of nuts. The fat, protein and fiber in nuts help most people feel full longer and they may eat less, said Henneman. That feeling of satiety also may help dieters feel less deprived.

An International Journal of Obesity study of two groups of adults following a low-calorie diet for six months showed that the group with almonds in their diet lost more weight, according to everydayhealth.com. According to the Almond Board of California, nutrients in almonds, such as fiber and unsaturated fat, have been shown to help maintain healthy cholesterol and blood glucose levels.

In addition to providing nutrients, unsalted nuts can replace salty processed meats or red meat high in saturated fat, Lilian Cheung, a registered dietitian and editorial director of the Nutrition Source (www.thenutritionsource.org) at the Harvard School of Public Health told CTW Features. Be sure the nuts replace, but are not in addition to, the meats.

Harvard experts found that red-meat eaters who switch to nuts for one serving a day reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 21 percent.

Nuts are listed among high-protein food. The USDA in its 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommends including a variety of foods with protein in the diet, such as seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products — and unsalted nuts and seeds. Nuts also are cholesterol free and provide much-needed dietary fiber.

“Look for nuts without salt,“ Henneman said. Nuts have very little sodium unless salt is added. High sodium can raise your blood pressure, which can lead to a stroke.

Cancer

Walnuts, pecans and chestnuts have the highest content of antioxidants of tree nuts. Peanuts (a legume) also contribute significantly to dietary intake of antioxidants, according to nuthealth.org.

“Antioxidants help with cell aging and decrease our chances of getting cancer, according to scientists,” said Brison.

Although technically a legume, peanuts are a good source of folate, a B vitamin recommended to reduce the incidence of birth defects and lower the risk of heart disease

Nutty Notes

Store shelled or unshelled nuts in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to six months or a year in your freezer for best quality, advises Maureen Ternus, registered dietitian for the International Tree Nut Council's Nutrition Research & Education Foundation.

Keep 1 ounce of nuts in snack bags for quick access on the road or in the office. Store in the refrigerator.

Sprinkle nuts into foods: salads, yogurt, cereal, pasta, cooked vegetables, muffin and pancake batter.

Arrange a variety of nuts in a jar or other container, add ribbon and you have a nice hostess gift.

For added flavor, try toasting nuts. Learn how at http://food.unl.edu/web/fnh/toasted-nuts-seeds

This article includes information from CTW Features and from UNL Extension/Lancaster and Douglas counties.




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