When I was a child, one of the first signs the Christmas holidays were coming soon was the bowl of nuts in the shell my mother put out on Thanksgiving Day. Walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, and Brazil nuts were there for the taking, as long as we could extract their riches with a nutcracker and a pick.
Many years later, those nuts are still one of my favorite things about winter. But nuts can be a great benefit to health year round. They’re packed with protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
It’s not surprising that people who eat more nuts are less likely to suffer from many chronic illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, gallstones, and colon cancer. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013 showed that eating nuts was linked to a longer, healthier life.
Beyond helping us live longer, nuts may help us live better. A recent study showed that nut consumption strengthens brainwave patterns asociated with better learning, memory, and sleep.
Many people worry about that nuts are high in calories. The participants in those studies who ate nuts regularly were leaner than those who did not. But don’t go nuts with nuts. One to one and a half ounces of nuts a day is likely to enhance your health without increasing your weight. Also, limit the amount of added salt and sugar. A few peanuts don’t make a Snickers bar a health food.
The research on nuts suggests that all the tree nuts and peanuts have similar health benefits. But each nut has its special nutritional virtues. Variety is great. Try some you rarely eat and enjoy the ones you like most.
Nuts make a wonderful snack, but they can also be a valuable ingredient in all sorts of recipes. If you’d like ideas on how to use them in cooking, check out these recipes from Eating Well.