Pass the nuts. After falling out of fashion because they're fatty, nuts are getting a second look. While it's true that they're high in fat, it's mainly the good-for-you kind, so just remember to keep your portions small. Nuts can add crunch to a green salad, pizzazz to a pasta dish and flavor to baked goods.
Nuts are full of monounsaturated fats, which can help lower your cholesterol, and polyunsaturated fats, which can help prevent heart disease. Plus, nuts are a good source of protein,
calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, selenium, folate,
vitamin E and vitamin A.
Before you go nuts, the American Dietetic Association, one of FoodFit.com's resource associations, reminds us that the key to making nuts part of a healthy diet is to balance the fat they have with lower fat foods.
That means if you sprinkle nuts on top of your pasta, leave off the cheese. Or if you're tossing nuts into a salad, choose fat-free dressings and add smaller amounts of meat, fish or poultry. If you're a snack type, take a set portion to enjoyyou can easily overeat scooping nuts by the handful from a bag or jar. Stretch out the snack by mixing the nuts with dried fruit.
- Because they're full of oil, nuts go rancid easily. It's best to store them in your refrigerator or freezer. You can tell if nuts are rancid when they have a faint, fishy odor.
- One tablespoon of nuts has about 80 to 100 calories and one to three grams of protein. Make a little go a long way by using chopped nuts.
- Toasting nuts really enhances their flavor. It's worth the extra step before you add them to any dish. Check out our recipe for Toasted Nuts for cooking pointers.
- Many nutspecans, pine nuts and walnuts to name a feware considered aphrodisiacs.
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Almonds have been eaten for centuries, in fact they are mentioned in the Old Testament. Today, most of the world's supply is grown in California. With their mild flavor, almonds have a place in both sweet and savory dishes from tarts to stir fries.
Hazelnuts, also known as Filberts, are grown in the Pacific Northwest but the bulk of the crop comes from Europe and Turkey. Hazelnuts are a dessert favorite. To remove their bitter brown skin, bake until the skin cracks then rub the warm hazelnuts with a rough cloth or between your hands.
Pecans are a true southern belle. They're the only major tree nut that grows naturally in North Americaa lot of the varieties are named after American Indian tribes. Pecans are the fattiest nut. They have rich, buttery flavor that's delicious in baked goods but can hold up in entrees too.
Peanuts are actually a legume, not a nut. Half the U.S. crop is used to make that child (and adult) favorite, peanut butter.
Pine Nuts come from pine cones, which are heated to extract the nuts, hence the hefty price tag at the market. They are grown in the Southwestern United States, China, Mexico, Italy and North Africa. Their culinary range reflects their geographypine nuts are fabulous in everything from pesto to couscous to stir fries to sweet desserts.
Walnuts grow world round and are a welcome addition to most dishes. Make walnuts the last ingredient when you're baking. They're sensitive to the chemical reactions that can occur in bakingi.e. when you add baking powderand may change color.
Chock Full O' Nuts
We're nuts about these recipes:
Barbecued Pork Chops with Pecans, Sweet Potato, Sautéed Green Beans,
Mushrooms and Onions
Fresh Strawberry Almond Tart
Greens with Apples, Walnuts Blue Cheese and Balsamic Vinaigrette
Pecan Shortbread Tea Cookies
Red Beans with Walnut Sauce
Sautéed Spinach with Pine Nuts
Spinach, Orange and Almond Salad
Tagliarini with Smooshed Broccoli, Toasted Pine Nuts and Pecorino
Wild Rice with Dried Cranberries and Walnuts