Nuts are a truly tempting snack, whether in a bowl at a party or on the coffee table at home. It's hard not to reach out and pop a few in your mouth. But can you do it without a guilty conscience or are nuts unhealthy?
High Fat Content
The fact is that nuts are high in fat, so they are also very high in calories. Most nuts, however, contain unsaturated fats: either polyunsaturated fats as in walnuts and pine nuts, or monounsaturated fats as in almonds, pistachios, pecans and hazelnuts.
Brazil nuts, cashews and macadamia nuts, on the other hand, contain more saturated fats. Too much of that can contribute to high cholesterol, therefore it's best to eat these nuts only occasionally.
Chestnuts are an exception because they contain fewer fats and more starchy carbohydrates than other nuts.
Substitute for Other Snacks
Nuts are a good choice if you use them as a substitute for other snacks that are high in saturated fat or sugar (cookies, chocolate, cakes...). The high protein and fibre content fill you up and they also contain important nutrients such as vitamin E, potassium, and magnesium.
Not too much!
Keep an eye on portion sizes because nuts are very high in calories. Limit yourself to a small handful of nuts (about 30 g) because this contains about 175 kcal. If you find it difficult to stop, it is good idea to buy nuts that are still in their shells. It takes time to crack the nuts open which makes you consume less. Another advantage: nuts that are still in their shells are usually unsalted and therefore healthier (with the exception of salted pistachios in their shells).
No Unhealthy Additives
Try to avoid roasted, salted, flavoured or honey-roasted nuts, as these contain added salt or sugar. These additives reduce the health benefits of nuts.
If you're at a party, keep in mind that nuts are usually salted, which can make you thirsty and encourage you to consume more alcohol.
The healthiest nuts are unsalted and unflavoured but that doesn't mean that they have to taste bland and boring. Experiment by adding spices such as Chinese five-spice mix, paprika or cayenne pepper. For a sweeter taste, try cinnamon or vanilla extract. This adds a special touch to nuts and provides variety.
If you are careful about serving sizes and avoid unhealthy additives like salt and sugar, nuts can be a healthy choice for a snack between or with meals. Enjoy!