Nuts For Nutrition

Happy Nutrition Month! Whoohoo!

Nutrition is an exciting field; ever evolving with new research and new recipes… I assume if you are reading this that you agree to some extent.

This year, in honor of my chosen area of study and career, I would like to go Nuts for Nutrition.

Not only does nut make up the first three letters of nutrition, it is also a term given to someone or something that is a little extreme in their ways. Nuts and nutrition fit this bill.


Let’s start by defining nuts. For our nutritional purposes in this article, we will go with the common, culinary definition; those “nuts” that are used for cooking and eating. Nuts are a fruit, grown on trees with a hard shell and an inner seed. We eat the seed after it is dried and call it a nut.

Here is a list of all the culinary nuts:

  1. Kola
  2. Mongongo
  3. Hazelnut
  4. Acorn
  5. Beech
  6. Breadnut
  7. Chestnut
  8. Palm
  9. Almond
  10. Walnut
  11. Pecan
  12. Macadamia
  13. Pistachio
  14. Brazil
  15. Cashews (seed of accessory fruit)
  16. Peanuts (seed of legume)
  17. Soy (seed of legume)
  18. Pine (seed of pine tree)

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Let’s break down the nutrition of a few of these.

WALNUTS

  • Serving= ¼ cup halves or pieces (1 ounce without shell).

  • They come in several varieties and are characterized by their “brain like” shape.

  • 99% of US walnuts are produced in California; none of these are genetically modified.

  • To keep and consume at their freshest, buy walnuts in the shell and store in sealed container in refrigerator or freezer; crack just before use.

  • Walnuts have the highest omega-3 fatty acid content of all nuts; 2.5 grams (g) of omega-3 as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). A diet with adequate omega-3 oils helps to maintain healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood.

  • Total fat= 18g, most of which is polyunsaturated, including ALA.

  • Protein= 4g.

  • Carbohydrates= 4g; 2g of which are fiber.

 

  • Good source of copper; 25% daily value (DV).

  • Good source of magnesium; 10% DV.

  • Good source of phosphorus; 10% DV.

 

PISTACHIOS

  • Serving= 48 nuts (1 ounce without shell).

  • 98% of US pistachios are grown in California; internationally the largest producer is Iran.

  • Their green color is attributed to the presence of chlorophyll.

  • Their shell will pop open on its own as part of the growing process, on the tree.

  • An excellent source of fiber! 3g of the total 8g of carbohydrate per serving are from fiber. Fiber is helpful in colon health.

  • Fat= 13g, most of which is monounsaturated (7 g).

  • Protein= 6g.

  • Good source of thiamin; 15% DV.

  • Good source of vitamin B6; 15% DV.

  • Good source of potassium; 8% DV.

 

BRAZIL NUTS

  • Serving= 7 nuts (1 ounce).

  • Only harvested in the wild; grown in South America rain forests which also produce a specific orchid in order to insure pollination. 

  • They have a high fat content= 19g, which makes it very important to keep them refrigerated or in the freezer when stored to prevent them from going rancid.

  • Protein= 4g; they are a complete protein, meaning they provide all the essential amino acids!

  • Carbohydrate= 4g, 2g of which is fiber.

  • Very high in selenium; 780% DV= a potent antioxidant, aiding in the neutralization of free radials as part of the immune system. BUT, be aware of overdose of selenium. This nutrient is a minor mineral, meaning we don’t need it in large doses. Too much can cause brittle nails, hair loss, fatigue, rash, among other physical side effects.

  • Good source of vitamin E; 14% DV.

 

Even though this is a small sample of the long list of culinary nuts out there, I want to say a quick praise to ALL nuts. They all will provide you a healthy balance of nutrients. No one nut is better for you than another, so enjoy them all in moderation.


Nuts can be used in a variety of meals. Try some of these options:

  • Top salads
  • Make hummus
  • Blend into pesto
  • Crust salmon or chicken
  • Add to trail mix
  • Bake into muffins and pancakes
  • Bend into smoothies
  • Cook into granola
  • Sprinkle on oatmeal
  • Put into bowl on the table, ready to crack as a snack (I recommend a nut cracker)  

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References:

California Walnuts, http://www.walnuts.org

American Pistachio Growers, http://www.americanpistachios.org

Nuts for LIfe, www.nutsforlife.com.au

Seed Guides, http://www.seedguides.info