Including nuts in your get-togethers

No, this is not a commentary on friends or party pals. 

Nuts, the edible varieties, are a nutritious snack. These crunchy, little nuggets provide protein, healthy monounsaturated fat, vitamins, and minerals. When consumed with the one ounce or quarter-cup serving size in mind, nuts contribute about 170 calories to your daily intake.

Every type of nut has its own special nutritional benefits. But as a group, nuts have been shown to promote heart health, decrease the risk of diabetes, and possibly reduce the risk of certain cancers.

Peanuts are the hands-down favorite of many. These satisfying morsels, which really are
legumes and not nuts, come packed with nutrition. Peanuts have the most protein of any nut. They are also a source of magnesium, potassium and zinc, three minerals that may be low in some diets.

There are other nutty options, as well, that will add variety and nutrients to your diet.

  • Almonds are high in protein, iron and calcium.
  • Cashews are another good choice for protein, and contain important minerals including iron, magnesium, and zinc.
  • Hazelnuts are particularly rich in folate and vitamin E.
  • Pistachios contribute phytosterols, a plant nutrient that interferes with the body’s absorption of cholesterol. And you can eat one-half cup (or 49 nuts) of      shelled pistachios for the same calories as one-quarter cup of other nuts.
  • Walnuts have been getting more attention lately as a vegetable source of omega-3 fatty acids.

As with any high-calorie food, moderation is the rule. If you tend to eat nuts by the handful, take out a measuring cup and determine what is in your hand before you toss the nuts into your mouth. Handfuls can vary from one-quarter cup to one-half cup. A couple handfuls of nuts will add up quickly calorie-wise.

One word of caution. When entertaining, be sure to ask invited guests beforehand about food allergies. And remember that nuts can be a choking hazard for children.

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