Because of their high fat and calorie content, nuts can pose a hazard to your waistline if eaten to excess, and if you suffer from a nut allergy, you need to steer clear of them altogether. However, if eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet, the health benefits of nuts far outweigh their drawbacks for most people.
In a Nutshell
Nuts fall into two groups: tree nuts, a group that includes pecans, walnuts, pistachios and cashews; and peanuts, which are technically a dried pea or legume. The U.S. Department of Agriculture notes that regular nut consumption has been associated with lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels and reduced risk of heart disease.
Little Snack, Big Fat
Nuts have a high fat content, so maintain a daily intake of 1.5 ounces, or one-quarter cup, if you don't want them going to your hips. Nevertheless, the fats they contain are healthy unsaturated fats. Because they are so dense in fat, protein and fiber, a diet that includes nuts can curb hunger and make you less likely to fill up on an unhealthy snack.
Watch Those Calories
If you lead a somewhat sedentary life, the high calorie content of nuts can be a concern. Try pistachios, which have fewer calories per pound than other nuts and provide the typical benefits to your heart, cholesterol level and blood pressure.
Beware of Allergies
Nuts are on the list of the eight most common food allergens, which cause 90 percent of allergies. In severe cases, an allergic nut reaction can take the form of anaphylactic shock, where the blood pressure drops suddenly, resulting in unconsciousness. Nuts shouldn't be given to infants under 8 months old, as this can help trigger the allergy, and if you or your partner is allergic, keep your child away from nuts until he is at least 3 years old.
- USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion: The Role of Nuts in a Healthy Diet
- Superfoods; Stephen G. Pratt and Kathy Matthews
- The Complete Book of Natural Pregnancy and Childcare; Anne Charlish and Kim Davies