By Katherine Chen

 

Whether you’re sitting at a cocktail bar with a martini (for healthy martini recipes, click here!) or hungry mid-flight, you’re guaranteed to find one tasty snack lying around: nuts. And while nuts don’t generally have the healthiest of reputations, the right kinds, in the right quantities can actually offer a number of health benefits. Sure, the ones roasted in partially hydrogenated oils and heavily salted are not the best choice, but that doesn’t mean all varieties should be written off. So, what do you need to know about snacking on this treat healthfully? We’ve got the nuts and bolts all worked out for you!

Traveling? Click here for 15 healthy snacks that travel well!

The Fatty Truth. While nuts have a fatty-reputation, they are high in the heart-healthy and cholesterol-lowering monosaturated fats also found in olive oil and avocados. In fact, a recent study published in Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that eating two and a half bags of airplane-sized packets of nuts every day can help lower cholesterol levels, particularly the LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol, thereby helping to kick your lopsided cholesterol levels into balance once again (or just “for once,” depending on your health history). Similarly, studies show that women who consume nuts more than four times each week are 40 percent less likely to suffer from heart disease.

Protein Packed. Nuts are one of the best sources of vegetarian protein, making them a great addition to any diet. Essential for healthy hair, nails, bones, muscles, skin and blood, protein helps ensure our health and beauty inside and out – so snack up!

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Moderately Medicinal. While all nuts are hearth-healthy, some nuts have even greater health benefits. Brazil nuts, for example, contain selenium, a mineral shown to play a role in the prevention of breast cancer, boost liver and kidney function and support the immune system. Almonds contain high levels of antioxidants, potassium, calcium, iron, vitamin E and magnesium and cashews are rich in iron, zinc, selenium, phosphorus, and magnesium.

Everything in Moderation. Too much of anything – even a good thing – is never a great idea. So while nuts do offer numerous benefits, remember ‘everything in moderation’ (and beware of the constantly-refilling bowl at the bar).

(Un)Processed Perfectly. What usually sets apart the nutritious nuts from the less healthy varieties is the means by which they’re processed. Most foods, when consumed closest to their found-in-nature-form are best for us. However, for many of us accustomed to the roasted and salted nuts we’ve been eating since childhood, switching to the raw variety can be a challenge. Until you get used to the taste of raw nuts, though, try looking for dry-roasted nuts and, as usual, make an effort to avoid partially hydrogenated oils.

Are Spelnda or agave any better for you than white sugar? Click here to find out!