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NUTS -- Watch the Portion Size

In The Healthy Heart Miracle we recommend eating seeds, including nuts, because they are sources of essential fatty acids and many other nutrients. Yet our earlier books (The 20/30 Fat & Fiber Diet Plan, Fat Free, Flavor Full, The Whole Grains Cookbook and the 20-Gram Diet) suggest that you limit or avoid nuts. We'd like to clear up the discrepancy.

Our earlier books were aimed primarily at people who need to lose weight, control diabetes or lower cholesterol – those who usually are taking in more calories than they burn. Fats are the most concentrated source of calories, and all added fats and high-fat foods should be limited if you want to lose weight.

All seeds are highly nutritious packages protein, minerals, vitamins, fiber and phytochemicals, plus a calorie source for the baby plant – fat, carbohydrates or both. The oil seeds, such as nuts, olives, corn, cottonseed, peanuts, flaxseeds and soybeans have a large percentage of fat, and it's mostly "good" fats – polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Their polyunsaturated fats include varying amounts of the essential fatty acids (omega-3's and omega-6's).

A reasonable daily amount of any of these seeds is 1-3 tablespoons. That's why we caution you to watch the amount of nuts you eat if you're trying to lose weight. It's practically impossible for the most rational human to stop at a tablespoon of salted peanuts or almonds. Each tablespoonful is about 100 calories. A 1-pound can of peanuts is 2200 calories.

It's easier to eat an appropriate portion size if you use nuts (and snack seeds such as sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds) IN salads or sprinkled on top of other foods, rather than snacking from a can or bowl. It's also easy to limit the portion size of seeds used for flavoring, like sesame, poppy, caraway, cumin or fennel; or those that have virtually no flavor, such as flax seed.

Salted nuts ARE an ideal food to take along for prolonged, intense exercise like cycling or running: They're easy to carry, concentrated energy, and the salt plus the fluid you drink with them keep you from getting dehydrated. One of the many good reasons to exercise is that it lets you eat more of the foods you love!

Checked 9/1/05

May 12th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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