A UVA Heart & Vascular Center Initiative

Looking for a Healthy Snack? Go Nuts!

Posted September 21, 2016

They may be small, but nuts are nutritional powerhouses. Here are some of the top reasons you should be incorporating nuts into your diet:

Nuts are good for your heart. Nuts contain fiber, unsaturated fats and plant sterols, which help reduce levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, one of the main causes of heart disease. They also contain L-arginine, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, which are also good for your heart. “While all nuts contain omega-3s, walnuts contain the most significant amount,” advises UVA Heart & Vascular Center dietitian Katherine Basbaum, MS, RD.

Nuts may protect your brain. Many types of nuts contain vitamin E, including walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts and cashews. Higher levels of this vitamin may help prevent cognitive decline. Walnuts not only look like a brain, but also contain antioxidants that can protect your brain as you age. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease showed that older people who ate more walnuts as part of a Mediterranean diet had better memory and general cognitive function.

Nuts can help make your skin, hair and nails look fabulous. Nuts contain essential fatty acids that help reduce inflammation and act as a natural moisturizer for your skin. The fiber in nuts also helps eliminate toxins and waste, which can make skin look great. Antioxidants like selenium, found in Brazil nuts, help protect against sun damage. The biotin in peanuts may strengthen nails, prevent hair loss and keep skin healthy.

Nuts may help you lose weight. The fiber, protein and healthy fats in nuts keep you fuller and more satisfied. This can help you lose weight, as long as you watch your portions. One study found people who supplemented low-calorie diets with 3 ounces of almonds lost 62 percent more weight than those who added carbohydrates. If you’re watching your weight, stick to 1-2 ounces of nuts per day because they’re a calorie-dense food.

Check out our recipe library for great ideas on how to incorporate nuts into your favorite dishes.

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