Nutrition in a nutshellby Karen Fernau on Nov. 19, 2007, under Body
Say nuts, and many of us think of peanuts. But peanuts are a legume, along with dry beans, peas and lentils.
So what is a nut?
Botanically speaking, a nut is a dry fruit consisting of an edible kernel or meat enclosed in a woody, leathery shell.
There are several varieties of nuts, and they vary in taste and nutritional content. Nutritionists recommend eating 11/2 ounces, or one-third cup, a day to help keep your heart healthy.
Expand your culinary experience with nuts by tasting new varieties. The following are widely available in grocery stores:
These have the highest protein content of any nut and are a valuable food for vegans and vegetarians. Almonds are rich in minerals, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, calcium, mono-unsaturated fat and the same acid in olive oil that protects against heart disease. Almonds have diverse uses in cooking. Bitter almonds are used for almond oil, added to many dishes as a flavoring. Sweet almonds are used in both sweet and savory dishes.
Brazil nuts have about 2,500 times as much selenium as any other nut. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that protects against heart disease and cancers, as well as stimulates the immune system. Like all nuts, Brazils are an excellent source of protein and fiber. The Spanish discovered Brazil nuts in the 16th century and used them to feed their hungry troops on conquests across the South American continent.
Cashew: Cashew nuts, with their sweet, buttery flavor, are popular eaten alone, as a nut butter and in sweet and savory dishes. All nuts have a high fat content, but cashews have a different fat profile: They are lower in fat overall, but higher in saturated fat. Cashews also provide essential fatty acids, B vitamins, fiber, protein, carbohydrate potassium, iron and zinc.
Also known as filberts or cobnuts, they contain a high proportion of essential oils and supply a well-balanced mixture of vitamins and minerals. Hazelnuts are one of the few nuts containing vitamin A, which is a natural antioxidant and has cancer-preventing properties.
These delicate nuts are an excellent source of protein and contain energy-producing nutrients – carbohydrates. The fat found in pecans is mostly polyunsaturated and contains no cholesterol. Pecans add fiber to your diet and contain iron, calcium, vitamins A, B and C, potassium and phosphorous. Sprinkling 10 large pecan halves on your salads, toppings, vegetables, meat dishes and desserts will add 65 nutritious calories to your diet.
There are more than 15 varieties of walnut, but the most popular is the English walnut. Its shape resembles that of the human brain, and in medieval times it was widely believed to cure headaches. Walnuts have been used in cooking for many generations, both in sweet and savory dishes. One ounce of walnuts – about 14 shelled walnut halves – is all that is needed to meet federal guidelines for daily requirements of omega-3 fatty acids.
These nuts, cultivated for more than 10,000 years, are usually salted and, because of the high sodium content, should be eaten only in small quantities. However, unsalted they are an excellent addition to any diet, particularly vegan or vegetarian. In addition, a pistachio or two daily could help reduce cholesterol levels, a new study suggests.