February is American Heart Health Month, and whether or not it’s a coincidence two heart-healthy nut varieties - almonds and pistachios - are also celebrated this month. As they should!
Some people are wary of nuts thinking they are high in calories and fat, but there are plenty of good reasons to include nuts in your diet. For example, nuts are always cholesterol free and many types contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. And nuts are a nutritionally dense food – a fine source of protein, folic acid, potassium, phosphorus, selenium, zinc and vitamins B-6 and E, and excellent for dietary fiber, too. What’s great about the fiber in nuts is that it helps fill you up and keep you full, so a modest portion satisfies hunger. You’re not as apt to go overboard when you snack wisely on nuts.
A single serving of nuts is about 1.5 ounces and the number of nuts you get in a serving depends on the nut you choose. Some nuts give you a lot more than others so take a look at this comparison and see how your favorite nut stacks up:
Pecans 18-20 halves
Walnuts 10-14 halves
Brazil nuts 6-8
As a dietitian (and nut fan) I am especially fond of pistachios. Sure, I love how they taste and that you get the most nuts in a serving compared to other nuts, and of course nutritionally they are terrific, too. But another plus has to do with the fact that pistachios come in their shell. They are partly open already, but having to crack them apart takes more time than devouring a handful of shelled nuts. Pistachios simply require more time to eat … and in my opinion this makes them more delicious and more satisfying as a snack. When I am done I feel full, and seeing a bowl of cracked shells reminds me that I’ve had a nice big serving to boot.
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.