When it comes to the holidays, unhealthy choices abound.
But, there’s one gift that you can give that actually promotes good health.
Contrary to what some people believe, nuts are a heart-healthy food. Because nuts are high in fat and calories, some people exclude them from their diet.
But the fact is, nuts are good for you — when eaten in moderation, of course.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends 1.5 ounces of nuts, roughly equivalent to small handful a day.
That’s roughly equal to one-third cup.
Or, to be more specific, here’s the number of nuts in an actual serving: 36 almonds; 30 hazelnuts; 42 peanuts; 30 pecan halves; or, 70 pistachios.
Another option is 2 tablespoons of a nut-butter.
Technically speaking, nuts are a good source of protein so they can be used as a protein substitute.
They also are a good source of fiber, thiamin, niacin, folate, phosphorus and zinc. And, they are a good source of Vitamin E, magnesium, selenium, copper, manganese.
Although they are high in fat, it is considered a “good” fats (mono & poly) and do not contain cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in many kinds of fish, but many nuts are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Nuts with the highest antioxidant levels include: walnuts, pecans, peanuts, legume, pistachios, almonds, pine nuts and hazelnuts.
Choosing nuts instead of a less healthy snack may just help you stick to a heart-healthy diet.
Just portion the nuts into snack bags and store for later or take them with you for when get a “snack attack.”
Of course, you can’t just eat nuts and not cut back on saturated fats found in many other foods, such as dairy and meat products. That won’t do your heart any good.
Remember, too, if the nuts are covered with chocolate, sugar or salt that could cancel out the heart-healthy benefits as well.
Still, unless you are allergic to nuts, you can include nuts as part of your heart-healthy diet.
A bowl of unshelled nuts is still a holiday tradition for many.
You can prepare small baskets of mixed nuts to give as gifts (unshelled nuts keep longer than shelled nuts and cost less). It might be fun to include a nutcracker, too.
Or, you could make a mix of roasted unshelled walnuts, pecans, almonds and hazelnuts (also called filberts). If you are giving nuts as a gift, make sure that your recipient or any member of their family is not part of the 1 percent of Americans allergic to nuts, because they could experience reactions that can range from mild to life threatening.
Nuts contain oils, so eventually they will become rancid and have an off-flavor if they are kept at room temperature for an extended period of time. However, they will stay fresh for up one year in some cases, if they are stored in a tightly-sealed container in the refrigerator or freezer.
Sugar-Free Roasted Almonds
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg white
1 teaspoon cold water
2 cups whole raw almonds
Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, mix together the three spices and set aside.
In another large mixing bowl, whisk egg white and water until frothy.
Add almonds to large bowl, stir to coat well. Add the spice mix and stir well, again to coat.
Spread on baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container or packaging as a gift.
Makes three cups.
Published December 21, 2016