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HEALTHY EATING

How Well Do You Know Your Nuts?

By: Luisa MamaradloHow Well Do You Know Your Nuts?

Nuts are among the healthiest food you can eat. They are packed with different nutrition credentials and offer various health benefits such as heart-healthy fats, proteins, and disease-fighting vitamins and minerals. However, like most foods that aid your diet, it is important to learn more about the different types and possible effects they may have in your body.

Eating nuts is part of a healthy diet. They are inexpensive, easy to store and pack, and in general, a great snack food. Research suggests that nuts are good for your body. These are low in carbohydrates and are great sources of nutrients such as vitamin E, magnesium, and selenium. Nuts are loaded with antioxidants such as polyphenols which protect the body cells against low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol. These also increase the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol in the body which has various benefits such as improving artery function. In fact, studies found that nuts significantly lower the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Among the most commonly consumed nuts are tree nuts and groundnuts. Tree nuts or hard-shelled nuts are defined as any edible dried fruit or seeds of non-leguminous woody plants or trees. More popular examples of tree nuts include cashew nuts, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, chestnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, macadamia nuts, and Brazil nuts; while less common tree nuts include beechnuts, butternuts, chinquapins, gingko, hickory nuts, lychee nuts, pili nuts, and shea nuts.

Additionally, groundnuts or popularly known as peanuts are any of several plants having edible tuberous roots. These are legumes and related to lentils and soy.

Despite their different health benefits, did you know that nuts prompt allergic reactions to many people? Such a food allergy can either be mild or life-threatening. Unfortunately, allergic reactions are unpredictable that even very small amounts can cause your body to react. Moreover, symptoms of nut allergies include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, itching of the mouth, throat, eyes or skin, shortness of breath, and in severe cases, anaphylaxis.

In fact, the U.S. government has identified nuts as one of the eight major allergens or substance which causes allergies that its federal law has required manufacturers to label which nut is given or produced in a product.  In 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration enforced the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act. According to the FDA website: “The Act applies to the labeling of foods regulated by FDA which includes all foods except poultry, most meats, certain egg products, and most alcoholic beverages which are regulated by other Federal agencies. The Act requires that food labels must clearly identify the food source names of any ingredients that are one of the major food allergens or contain any protein derived from a major food allergen.”

Botanically speaking, there are two types of nuts – tree nuts and peanuts – however, each person’s body reacts differently. Therefore, here are a few tips for you to consider if you suspect you have a food allergy:

  1. Consult a health or medical professional. All suspected food allergies should always be evaluated, diagnosed, and treated by your doctor.
  2. Avoid causes of your allergies. With regards to food, always read labels or the ingredient list before consumption. Be certain to read and understand labeling statements like “contain”, “may contain” or “processed in a facility that manufactures”.
  3. Be mindful. Inspect cooking ingredients or products you use at home. If you are dining out, let your server or the chef know about your food allergy and specify these dietary constraints before you order.
  4. Bring your medication, always.

Nuts are described as the ultimate health food – they are high in protein and rich in healthy fats. However, like most foods in your diet, they should be consumed moderately and consciously.

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