Insights by Goldie
Just for the health of it — go nuts!

Sound Consumer | May 2007

by Goldie Caughlan
Quality Standards Specialist

If you think of nuts and seeds as being high in fat and calories, and as just another snack food to avoid — you’re only half right. Nuts and seeds are high in fat and have about 185 calories per ounce (walnuts, for instance). But don’t avoid them. Their fat is valuable.

Nutrition studies repeatedly have found that people who regularly eat nuts are less likely statistically to suffer a heart attack or die from heart disease than those who rarely eat them.

The Nutrition Source, a Web site service of the Harvard School of Public Health, states: “Several of the largest cohort studies, including the Adventist Study, the Iowa Women’s Health Study, the Nurses’ Health Study, and the Physicians’ Health Study have shown a consistent 30 to 50 percent lower risk of myocardial infarction, sudden cardiac death, or cardiovascular disease associated with eating nuts several times a week.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reportedly now allows some nuts and foods made with nuts to carry this claim: “Eating a diet that includes one ounce of nuts daily can reduce your risk of heart disease.” The Web site also includes citations for the source of those studies.

The Nutrition Source then explains some of the ways that eating nuts could provide us with such remarkable health benefits: “The unsaturated fats they contain help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol. One group of unsaturated fat found in walnuts, the omega-3 fatty acids, appears to prevent the development of erratic heart rhythms.

"Omega-3 fatty acids (which also are found in fatty fish such as salmon and bluefish) may also prevent blood clots, much as aspirin does. Nuts are rich in arginine, an amino acid needed to make a molecule called nitric oxide that relaxes constricted blood vessels and eases blood flow. They also contain vitamin E, folic acid, potassium, fiber, and other healthful nutrients.”

That’s important because “surfing” the Internet in search of health advice is becoming very common. The World-Wide Web can help us to broaden (and deepen) our understanding of how to stay healthy — but it also can lead us to information that is not necessarily accurate, reliable or safe.

It’s good to have some places to start — a foundation — and that’s how I view the Harvard Web site (www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource).

It may surprise some of you to find that so “mainstream” an institution as Harvard provides some quite provocative opinions and analyses. Curious? Good. Check out the discussion about protein, dieting, carbohydrates and fiber. Learn more about Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes. See what Harvard has to say about dairy foods, the current and past USDA food pyramids, as well as alternative pyramid guides.

I’ve added a few other nutrition and health Web sites (not with any ranking) that may not be familiar to you. Some address the ongoing concerns with plastics and other toxins, genetically engineered foods, and more.

More about: nuts, omega-3, unsaturated fat

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