Nuts for Nutrition
Alice Henneman, MS, RD, Extension Educator
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension - Lancaster County
Questions or comments? Email Alice Henneman
Can a handful of nuts a day help keep you healthy?
And how much, exactly, is a handful?
Nuts and Your Health
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend: "Choose a variety of protein foods, which include seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds."
The Dietary Guidelines also recommend fat intake should emphasize heart healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as those found in seafood, nuts, seeds, and oils.
Choose MyPlate, a recommended food pattern to help people implement the dietary guidelines states,
"In general, 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ cup cooked beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds can be considered as '1-ounce equivalent' from the Protein Foods Group."
Nuts, with their healthy fats, are higher in calories than some other sources of protein and MyPlate recommends:
Choose unsalted nuts as a snack, on salads, or in main dishes. Use nuts to replace meat or poultry, not in addition to these items." At the 2,000 calorie level, MyPlate recommends approximately 5-1/2 "1-ounce equivalents" from the Protein Group.
A Handful of Nuts
How many nuts are in a handful of nuts? A handful equals about 1-ounce. This serving size corresponds to the the serving size listed on the "Nutrition Facts" panel on food labels.This chart from the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation for examples of 1-ounce portions of each tree nut, along with the average number of nuts per serving.
Check this chart for the nutrients and calories in 1-ounce portions of tree nuts (prepared 12/11 by INC NREF)
Feel Like a Nut?
It's easy to nibble on nuts. Here are two quick ideas plus links to lots more. Store shelled or unshelled nuts in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 6 months or for a year in your freezer for best quality, advises
It's in the Bag
You don't have to fire up the stove or get out your cookbook to enjoy nuts. Your handful of nuts may be enjoyed -- simply -- out of hand.
Divide a container of nuts into small snack bags for easy snacking at home, office or on the road, advises Ternus, INC NREF. Simply count, weigh 1 to 1.5 ounces of nuts on a kitchen scale, or grab a handful and store in each snack bag. Keep in the refrigerator until you're ready to enjoy! A handful of nuts may help you resist that gooey sweet roll in the breakroom at work.
Just a Sprinkle
Sprinkle nuts into these foods:
- Cooked vegetables
- Muffins and pancakes (toss a handful or two into your batter)
For added flavor, try toasting nuts. Learn how at http://food.unl.edu/web/fnh/toasted-nuts-seeds
Links to more information about nuts
- International Nut Council's Nutrition Research and Education Foundation
- Almond Board of California
- The Hazelnut Council
- National Pecan Shellers Association
- California Pistachio Association
- The Walnut Marketing Board