The Nut Case

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The Food and Drug Administration approved the first qualified health claim for nuts that states: "Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease". Research studies supporting the heart heatlh benefits of almonds were among the strongest submitted for the claim.

Bowl of mixed shelled nuts

Researchers have determined that nuts - used in moderation - can make beneficial contributions to a healthful diet. Nuts provide many of the same nutrients as other protein sources, like meat and poultry, but without the saturated fat.

The Nut Case There is new evidence that unsaturated fats -- found in foods such as nuts, vegetable oils and fish -- can lower the risk of several chronic diseases. Studies have shown significant drops in cholesterol when people add walnuts, almonds, pistachios, peanuts, or other nuts to their diets. (Peanuts are technically legumes but are eaten like nuts and have similar nutrition.) In addition to mono- and polyunsaturated fats, nuts contain vitamin E, protein, magnesium, potassium and dietary fiber - all potential cancer-fighting substances.

The key to including nuts in your diet is moderation. Nuts are concentrated in calories, so be sure you cut back on other foods and watch portions. A serving of nuts is a scant handful. The cholesterol drops in the new research studies usually involved substituting three servings of nuts for other foods each day.

Nuts should be exchanged for foods with a similar number of calories. For example, instead of serving broccoli with 2-teaspoons of butter, saute cooked broccoli in 1-teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle it with a tablespoon of chopped nuts.

You get a lot of bang for your buck with a nut. A handful of nuts, which can be quite satisfying, is a better snack than chips or high-fat crackers made with hydrogenated oils. And nuts can replace some of the meat or cheese as the protein in salads and stir-fries. Spiced nuts are a good, filling snack. The flavor of most nuts benefits from a light toasting (as in the first recipe below).

Nut Trivia:

Antonio Gentile: Nuts. The year: 1916. A Virginia goober company was looking for an indelible image for its logo. So, they held a public contest. A 14-year-old boy named Antonio Gentile won $5 (that's somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 in today's money) for his drawing of a peanut with arms and legs. The company: Planter's Nut and Chocolate Company. The advertising icon: Mr. Peanut.

There are a couple recipes below that contain a somewhat high amount of butter; however, remember that these snacks are much more filling and satisfying, with much less food than other snack foods. In addition, butter has no trans-fat as does margarine, so keep this in mind when deciding which you prefer. In most of the recipes, you can substitute Smart Balance for the butter as well. Enjoy!

Cashew Cluster

Cashew Clusters Recipe

9 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 cup cashews

Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Stir in sweetened dried cranberries and nuts. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. Let harden at room temperature or chill in refrigerator. Recipe makes about 16 clusters.

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