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Going Nuts Over Nuts

I have been a registered dietitian long enough to see nuts go up and down the nutrition roller coaster. When I was a kid, I ate a lot of nuts, especially when they were left over after my folks' bridge parties! Then low-fat diets came in and nuts went out because they are high in fat. Today, nuts are in again, and nut lovers like me are thrilled!

Some Dietary Guidelines put nuts in the same food group as meat because, like meats, they contain protein. But unlike meats, nuts also supply fiber, a nutrient that is essential for a healthy digestive tract. They are a top source of vitamin E, a vitamin that helps protect cells throughout the body from everyday damage. Nuts are rich in monounsaturated fat, a type of fat that is recommended in the Dietary Guidelines.

"Eating almonds, for example, may help lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in people with high blood cholesterol and in people with normal cholesterol." Scientific evidence suggests that nut eaters may also have a lower risk of developing heart disease.

"Dieters usually avoid nuts because they are concentrated in fat and calories. It's possible that because nuts are satisfying, people who eat them may find they automatically cut back on other foods."

How can you eat nuts without overdoing it? Practice portion control. Limit nuts to about one ounce-24 almonds, 18 cashews, 49 pistachios or 14 walnut halves -three or four times per week. Once you've taken your portion, put the jar or bag away!

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