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What’s in a Nut? The Wonders of a Common Snack

It's easy to go nuts about nuts! With their crunch and their delicious flavor, nuts make a great snack and can be used in many different types of recipes from savory to sweet treats. Science has also shown that nuts offer plenty of health benefits due to their nutrient content. Read on to discover just what it is that makes them as nutritious as they are delicious.
The top nutrients in nuts are:
- Fiber - Required for a healthy digestive system, fiber has been shown in some studies to help lower levels of LDL or bad cholesterol in the body and to assist with blood sugar control in diabetic patients. Almonds and pistachios are particularly high in fiber with 3.5 grams and 2.9 grams per 1-ounce serving, respectively.
- Unsaturated fats - Fats are a necessary part of a healthy diet, as they are required to help your body absorb and utilize other key nutrients. The key to getting health benefits from fats is to choose healthy fats like the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in nuts. Cutting back on unhealthy saturated fats and eating more unsaturated fats daily can help promote a healthy cardiovascular system.
- Alpha-Linoleic Acid - A type of omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linoleic acid is needed by the body to help the heart function properly, keep the skin moisturized and assist with the functioning of other organ systems. Many adults are deficient of omega-3 fatty acids, and nuts are especially high in these essential nutrients. English walnuts in particular are an excellent source of alpha-linoleic acid with 2.6 grams of the essential fatty acid per 1-ounce serving.
- Phytosterols - Plant sterols are waxy substances that have been shown to have cholesterol-lowering benefits. Nearly all nuts contain some amount of phytosterols with peanuts and pistachios containing the most sterols per 1-ounce serving among common nut varieties.
- Vitamin E - An essential nutrient that is needed in the diet on a daily basis, vitamin E helps to prevent the build-up of plaque in the arteries and works as an antioxidant, protecting the organs and skin from free radical damage. Many varieties of nuts are rich in vitamin E, including almonds and hazelnuts.
Adding nuts to your diet can help you meet many of your body's nutritional needs, but keep in mind that these crunchy treats should be enjoyed in moderation. Limit portion sizes to 1.5 ounces, which is about one small handful. Choose nuts that are low in sodium or purchase raw nuts and season them yourself to make a healthy, nutritious snack.
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