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Peanuts, almonds and more are good -- and good for you

Many weight-conscious people shudder at the idea of nuts as part of a healthy diet. For years, dieters have shunned nuts because of their high fat content. Well, you can forget everything you ever heard about nuts, and delight in knowing they are now considered health food! The key to including the great taste of nuts in a healthy diet without overdoing the fat and calories is portion control

Even the government is leaning toward allowing a health claim on food packages touting the nutritious benefits of nuts. The Food and Drug Administration is now reviewing a proposal that would allow foods containing nuts to carry this label: "Diets containing one ounce of nuts per day can reduce your risk of heart disease."

An Ounce of Prevention

Several studies over the past several years have shown the health benefits of nuts -- which contain monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, folic acid, magnesium, copper, protein, and fiber, and are rich in antioxidant phytochemicals.

They are a powerhouse of good nutrition that can dramatically reduce the risk of heart disease. They've also been shown to play an important role in helping to lower "bad" cholesterol levels and raise "good" cholesterol levels. In addition, they can help dilate blood vessels and prevent hardening of the arteries.

In the Nurses Health Study, which followed 86,016 nurses for 14 years, found those who ate 5 ounces or more of nuts per week reduced their risk of dying from heart disease by 35%. The researchers also noted that the nut-eaters tended to weigh less than the nurses who did not eat nuts.

Dieter's Dream Come True

To find a food that is delicious, nutritious and filling is a dieter's dream come true. Dieters who eat nuts tend to stick to their diets because the fat and fiber content of nuts makes them very filling. As a result, they are not as hungry and ultimately eat less.

Several studies have found that eating small amounts of nuts helps dieters lose weight. One psychological benefit noted in a study done by Pennsylvania State researchers was that dieters did not feel like they were dieting when nuts were allowed in their eating plans -- which helped them stay on their diets longer.

So here's some food for thought for all our WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Are nuts in your eating plan? If not, consider creating a new plan and indicate your preference for nuts or peanut butter on the questionnaire. This will result in an eating plan that includes nuts without extra calories.

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