From a nutrition perspective, I can’t think of a bettersnack than nuts. Dry-roasted or plain, salted or unsalted, nuts pack inhealthful fats, a host of vitamins and minerals, fiber, and little sodium (evensome salted ones have as little as 95 milligrams sodium per ounce). While aone-ounce serving of nuts has more calories than pretzels, it also comes withprotein and fat, staving off hunger for longer than many starchy or sugarysnacks.

And I’m not the only one who knows nuts are good, as a stand-alone snack or an ingredient in recipes. Some ofthe latest research on these nutrient rich nuggets shows promise:

A review of studies published in 2001 showed that consumingjust one ounce of nuts — of any variety — up to five times a week is likely to helpreduce the risk of heart disease. (However, the results cite that it’s not just amatter of adding nuts. One must replace other calories consumed with the nutsas well as swap some of the artery-clogging saturated fat for the healthytypes of fat in nuts.)

The Nurses Health Study of more than 85,000 subjects alsolinked nut eaters with a lower risk of heart disease risk factors than thosewho did not consume nuts.

While vitamin E in supplement form hasn’t shown to beeffective in promoting health benefits, almonds supply vitamin E, anantioxidant, which may — along with other nutrients in the nut — help prevent “bad”LDL cholesterol oxidation, supporting heart health.

The May 2008 Journal of Nutrition issue includes apreliminary study, possibly helping to explain the almond’s heart healthyattributes. The article identifies additional antioxidants contained in theskin of whole almonds, which may play a role in reducing oxidative stress aswell as reducing LDL cholesterol.

So instead of munching on animal crackers or pretzels, try aserving of whole almonds. You’ll gain heart-healthy benefitsalong with a satiating snack.

Quick Tip: Portion size matters. One ounce of almonds equals about 22 nuts, enoughto cover a square sticky note pad or enough to fill a quarter-cup dry measuringcup. This serving size supplies about 164 calories, 3.4 grams fiber, and 15grams fat (though only 1 gram saturated fat). The trick is managing portionsize and calories, which is hard to do with the satisfying crunch and delicateflavor of almonds.


Kathy Kitchens-Downie, RD, is an Associate Food Editor for Cooking Light.