How to eat nuts the healthy way

Nuts can seem like forbidden fruit to dieters. A heaping handful might contain up to 10% of the daily caloric needs for a medium-sized man. And the generous dusting of salt on packaged snack nuts says “beware” to anyone trying to control high blood pressure.

But nuts are worth the “risks” if you know how to eat them. Nuts are a good source of key nutrients, healthy fats, and protein. They can jazz up salads and side dishes, adding crunchy flavor.

The key is to consume nuts in a way that delivers health benefits without the weight gain. That means limiting portions and eating nuts instead of, not in addition to, certain other foods. “Nuts are a great source of good fats and protein,” says Dr. Helen Delichatsios, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “But they should not be added onto everything else that you eat.”

Nuts to round out meals

But where should you toss those modest handfuls of nuts? Dr. Delichatsios has a few suggestions.

First, reboot your mental image of nuts as a standalone snack in a bowl. It’s true that a small handful of nuts can kill hunger pangs between meals, but Dr. Delichatsios suggests you also use nuts to “round out” the nutritional mix of your meals.

If you are trying to reach or maintain a healthy weight, the fiber and fats in nuts can allow you to leave your meals with a fuller, more satisfying feeling.

“If you are trying to lose weight and all you have in your salad are lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and low-fat dressing, you may be hungry later,” Dr. Delichatsios explains. “Nuts are a good way to make it more filling; they round out the meal. Otherwise it might not be calorically dense enough and leave you hungry.”

Breakfast is a good time to go nuts. Throw some in your cereal or yogurt with fruit. At lunch, toss a handful into a meatless salad.

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