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The health benefits of… nuts

Nuts are delicious and nutritious when you’re hungering for a crunchy snack.

Nuts are rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fats, which do not raise the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood. In fact, eating foods with unsaturated fats can actually help lower your LDL.

Walnuts contain an unsaturated fat called omega-3 fatty acids, which are particularly beneficial for heart health and essential for the body to function properly. Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats), decrease levels of triglycerides (fats linked to heart disease when found in high amounts in the blood) and slow the growth of plaque that clogs the walls of the blood vessels. The body cannot make omega-3 fatty acids, so all of them must be consumed.

Nuts also provide protein. But unlike meats and other foods that come from animals, nuts do not contain dietary cholesterol because nuts are plant-based.

Nuts provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Almonds provide calcium. Brazil nuts are rich in the antioxidant selenium. Peanuts provide a B vitamin called folate. Almonds, cashews and walnuts provide magnesium.

In addition, nuts are a good source of fiber, which provides satiety, a feeling of fullness after you eat that can help you avoid overeating.

Though eating nuts can have health benefits, you should be aware of your portion size. Nuts are a calorie-dense food, and a 1.5-ounce portion of nuts has 200 to 300 calories. To avoid consuming too many calories, keep your portion size small.

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