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Gain benefit and joy from tasty tree treats

Happy National Nut Day! And no, I don’t mean your neighbor that might be a little odd.

I’m looking at those tasty little treats that grow on trees. Tree nuts are a rich source of plant-based protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Although high in fat, they provide us with mono- and polyunsaturated fats that are heart-healthy. Naturally gluten free, some nuts lend themselves to replace wheat flour in many products.

Recognizing nuts as a healthy food is nothing new. According to NutHealth.org, in 2003 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Qualified Health claim: “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

A serving of nuts is one ounce, a quarter cup, or about the size of a golf ball in your hand. The amount of nuts in each serving varies based on the size of the nut itself, ranging from approximately six Brazil nuts to a whopping 49 pistachios. Although they are a healthy choice, they are dense in calories. Nuts can range between 160 calories to 200 calories per ounce; I wouldn’t be a good dietitian if I didn’t remind you to keep an eye on the serving size.

Here are some highlights for some popular nuts:

Almonds: 23 nuts provides a serving. Noted for Vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, and folate. They are also high in fiber at 3 grams per serving.

Brazil nuts: a good source of poly- and mono-unsaturated fats, selenium, magnesium, and Vitamin E; a serving is approximately 6 nuts.

Cashews: you’ll find copper, magnesium, selenium, and zinc in these nuts. Count out 18 nuts for a serving.

Hazelnuts or filberts: Gather 21 of these nuts for mono–unsaturated fats, Vitamin E, copper, and manganese. Same as almonds, you’ll also get 3 grams of fiber.

Macadamia: the highest in mono-unsaturated fats of all nuts, they also contain manganese, phytosterols, and two grams of fiber. A serving is approximately 10 – 12 nuts.

Pecans: the richest source of antioxidants of any other nut, they are also a source of mono-unsaturated fats. A serving is approximately 19 halves.

Pine nuts: providing Vitamin E, phosphorus, B-complex vitamins, and manganese, it takes approximately 167 of these tiny nuts to make up a serving!

Pistachios: known for antioxidants lutein and zea-xanthin, they also provide potassium and three grams of fiber. 49 nuts is a serving — think of all the energy you’ll need to shell that many!

Walnuts: an excellent source of antioxidants and the highest source of Omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) of any nut. They are also a good source of phosphorus and magnesium and one ounce provides 25% of our daily value of copper and two grams of dietary fiber. 12 to 14 halves is a serving.

The combination of healthy fat, fiber and protein that nuts provide lend themselves to a healthy diet. So, next time you’re craving a healthy snack, consider a small handful of nuts. Eat them one at a time for maximum benefit and joy!

Mary is a clinical dietitian at Banner Churchill Community Hospital and consultant for Pershing General Hospital. Your nutrition questions are welcome–send questions to Mary C. Koch, R.D. at news@lahontanvalleynews.com.