Oh Nuts! by Caron Golden

What’s as crunchy as potato chips, has more flavor than pretzel rods, and is healthier than both? Nuts, of course!

Oh Nuts! Snacks are often a tricky subject if you have diabetes. You’re trying to keep in mind fat and carbs for your eating plan, and while you may be doing okay with your meals, choosing a snack between meals can be hard when you’re hungry and less healthy options are tempting. That’s where nuts can come in. They’re delicious, crunchy, and healthy. But, as always, you have to know how to fit them into your eating plan.

Nutritional Benefits of Nuts
“They are overall a great food,” says Janice Baker, RDN, CDCES. “Yes, they are high in fat, but as part of an entire diet, we benefit from incorporating healthful sources of fat for satiety, flavor, and nutrition.”

In fact, a Harvard study found that people with type 2 diabetes who ate at least five, one-ounce servings of nuts a week were less likely to develop heart disease or die from it.

Nuts contain protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, vitamin E, plant sterols, and L-arginine. These are heart-healthy attributes that help lower LDL cholesterol (sometimes called “bad” cholesterol) levels, stop artery plaque development, and improve the health of your artery walls. And the protein and fiber help fill you up without raising blood glucose (blood sugar) levels the way carbs will.

How to Eat Nuts the Healthy Way

You may be asking, “But what about the fat levels in nuts?”. Like other foods you eat, it comes down to portion control and understanding their nutrition facts. Raw or dry-roasted nuts are better choices than those cooked in oil. Avoid nuts covered with sugar or chocolate. However, there are candied nuts you can make yourself using recipes on Diabetes Food Hub®. Or, you can buy pre-packaged snacks, like keto candied nuts, that are a sugar-free sweet treat—but you’ll still need to keep track of portions. A serving of nuts is a small handful (1/4 cup) or 1.5 ounces. For nut butters, like peanut butter, the serving size is 2 tablespoons.

So, says Baker, don’t plop down on the couch in front of the TV or computer with a bag of nuts. “It can lead to overeating anything,” she says. “Same with eating chaotically when we haven’t eaten all day.”

What Types of Nuts You Should Eat

Does it matter what kinds of nuts we eat? Well, most nuts seem to be healthy, but some are better for you than others. Walnuts, for example, contain higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. That Harvard study found that people who ate tree nuts, including walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, and pistachios, benefitted most in terms heart disease.

How to Prepare Nuts

There are many ways to enjoy nuts. Try toasting them a little to bring out the flavors of their natural oils, then add them to salads, roasted vegetables, whole grains, poached fruit, or eat them on their own. Another way to enjoy nuts is roasting them, which is also lower in calories and total fat. Be aware of nuts that are highest in calories and fat, like macadamia nuts. And as for peanuts, while technically they are legumes, we enjoy them like nuts and they appear to be relatively healthy.

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