Nuts, just like meat, fruits, vegetable and cereals, play an important role in our diet. Because nuts are nutrient dense, packed with very high contents of protein, oils and other important minerals, some people tend to look at them as calorie-rich food.
So people with hypertension and obesity issues sometimes feel they should do away with these. However, over the past years, numerous studies have shown that eating nuts in moderation promote a healthy heart and will not make one overweight, provided that the total level of calories is maintained in one's diet. This could further be enhanced by replacing foods with higher saturated fat content like meats with those that have higher unsaturated fats, such as nuts.
Among the many varieties of nuts available in the market, those that are more commonly consumed include almonds, hazelnuts, chestnuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashew and pecans, in no specific order. Peanut is also thought of as associated with this group, although it should be properly categorized under legumes as the plant does not belong to the so-called tree nuts.
As a group, nuts are rich in unsaturated fats (the so-called good cholesterol) which are also known to decrease the levels of low-density lipoprotein (or the so-called bad cholesterol). This seems like a good reason for people who have a high risk of developing cardiovascular disease to substitute nuts for other types of food that are high in saturated fats. Nuts are also a good source of dietary fiber, plant protein, vitamins such as vitamin B6, niacin, folic acid and vitamins E, and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, selenium and zinc. Our body needs these vitamins and minerals to maintain good health and for proper functioning.
Just how many nuts should be consumed as a daily food allowance? The Food and Drug Administration recommends about 1 ounces which is equivalent to 1/3 cup or a handful of nuts of any variety. This can be consumed as snacks or as part of a recipe such as pasta dishes, desserts, salads, stuffing and soups. Nuts can also be sprinkled over cooked vegetables, cereals, muffins and home made bread. They can be eaten uncooked. They can also be toasted in your microwave oven in less than 2 minutes: just spread a handful of nuts in a single layer on your microwave-safe plate and add a small amount of margarine or butter for good measure. This will lend flavor to your nuts for only 20 additional calories.
Nuts are long lasting food and can keep well raw or cooked provided they are refrigerated. In an airtight receptacle, toasted nuts can keep up to a month in the refrigerator, while sheled or unshelled nuts can keep up to 6 months. Purchasing nuts can pose some challenge though, as one should be wary of nuts in the shell that rattle when shaken. This may suggest that the shrunk and dried, have insect infestation, moisture damage or cracked and damaged shells. For nuts that have been sheled, one should also look at the same problems, as well as moldy and rubbery nuts. The expiration date should also be checked out.