Nuts are relatively inexpensive and easy to cook with at home or to carry along when you’re traveling. They’re packed with healthy fats, fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, and are a satisfying and portable snack for older adults.
Most nuts contain at least some of the major heart-healthy substances, including unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and vitamin E. They can help lower LDL, the “bad” cholesterol that is one of the primary causes of heart disease, and lower the risk of blood clots.
While most nuts are healthy, some, like walnuts and almonds, are outstanding. Peanuts are technically a legume and not a nut, but there is still some nutritional value. Something to keep in mind: All nuts are high in fat and calories, so they should be eaten in moderation.
The Food and Drug Administration recommends 1.5 ounces a day of a variety of nuts, which is the equivalent of a small handful. Substitute nuts for the saturated fats you currently eat to avoid gaining weight. The following are some ideas to help you work more nuts into your daily meals and snacks.
Using Nuts in Your Snacks and Side Dishes:
- Eat nuts straight out of the bowl or make simple snacks. If you’re in a hurry or on the go, nuts need little or no preparation. Eat them as is or make your trail mixes with unsweetened cereal and dried fruit. Buy plain nuts and sprinkle on your spices to avoid added sugar, salt, and saturated fats.
- If you usually put butter on popcorn, try mixing in a variety of nuts instead.
- Add nuts to your side dishes. Toasted chopped nuts make rice more flavorful. Cook brown rice or basmati rice in a skillet with nuts, ginger, and raisins. Use almonds to give a dish of green beans crunchy texture and extra protein.
Adding Nuts to Your Main Courses:
- Let nuts turn your salad into a meal. With the right ingredients, a salad can be a full meal in itself rather than just a first course. If you’re watching your weight, stick to cashews, which have a lower fat content than most nuts. Their delicate flavor will enhance a salad of Romaine lettuce, spinach, carrots, and green apples.
- Incorporate nuts into your main courses. A nut crust can quickly turn a simple piece of fish into a gourmet presentation. Top a salmon fillet with a half-cup of almonds and bake it or broil until browned.
- Oatmeal isn’t just for breakfast. For any light meal, boil and simmer rolled oats and sprinkle in a handful of walnuts. You’ll avoid the sugar and chemicals in many brands of instant oatmeal.
Serving Nuts for Dessert:
- Use nuts in frozen desserts. Even desserts can provide significant nutritional value if they contain nuts. Try some pecans or macadamia nuts as a topping on your ice cream in place of chocolate or rainbow sprinkles that are mostly sugar.
- For an easy and inexpensive alternative to store-bought ice cream, blend frozen bananas with cream and natural peanut butter in a food processor.
- Bake with nuts. Baked desserts are some of the most popular dishes to include nuts. By controlling your portion sizes, you can safely enjoy a little taste of brownies with walnuts or chocolate chip cookies with pecans. For lower-calorie fare, bake a pear with a touch of walnut cream. Make healthy muffins using whole wheat flour, skim milk, and almonds.
This nutritious high-fiber treat may even aid weight loss — despite its high-calorie count.
As long as you eat them in moderation, nuts make for a tasty addition to a healthy, balanced diet.