Eat more nuts and seeds

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I t's time to say good-bye to Cheetos and chips and welcome more nuts and seeds into your diet.

Many people avoid nuts because of their high fat content; however, the fat is the healthy unsaturated type necessary for heart and brain health. Nuts and seeds are naturally cholesterol-free and one the healthiest foods on earth with many nutritional benefits.

Research has found that including the right portion of nuts a day, about an ounce or a handful, can help you lose or maintain your weight as long as you control the amount you eat.

The protein, fiber, and fat in nuts and seeds help you feel full longer so you may eat less during the day. They also can stabilize blood sugar levels and improve cholesterol and triglycerides, which may reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

A study found that nurses who ate nuts five times a week had less heart disease and on average were thinner compared with those who did not eat nuts. Nuts and seeds are definitely a healthier snack choice and there are many to choose from.

Almonds are high in magnesium and calcium and one of the highest fiber nuts. The magnesium helps your body regulate its blood sugar. One ounce contains about 165 calories.

Walnuts are packed with antioxidants, which protect and repair cells from damage and strengthen your immune system. One ounce or one-fourth cup of chopped walnuts has about 180 to 190 calories.

Pistachios contain protein, fiber and many minerals that can actually lower LDL, (bad) cholesterol. Plus anything with a shell takes longer to eat, which is one way to control calories. Twenty-five pistachios have about 100 calories.

Pecans are a significant source of more than 19 essential vitamins and minerals. Just a handful a day provides 10 percent of the daily-recommended intake of fiber and can lower "bad" cholesterol. There are 196 calories in 1 ounce (20 halves) of pecans.

Brazil nuts are high in heart health vitamins and minerals, especially selenium, which recent research suggests may help prevent breast cancer. One ounce contains about 190 calories.

Piñon nuts have a high percentage of protein and fat involved in maintaining the health of your eyes, skin, and hair. Fifteen piñons have 30 calories.

Sunflower seeds also contain numerous vitamins and minerals. According to the National Sunflower Association, an ounce of sunflower seeds provides 76 percent of the recommended dietary allowance for vitamin E. A one-ounce serving, approximately 142 seeds, has 162 calories.

Pumpkin seeds have been known in folk medicine for centuries to reduce inflammation and arthritis. Since they are low in carbohydrates and rich in healthy fat, they are a perfect snack for people with Type 2 diabetes, who want to manage their blood sugar. There are about 153 calories in one ounce of pumpkin seeds.

There are more nut and seed choices available that have similar healing properties, from peanuts, cashews to flax, sesame and chia seeds. Whatever nuts or seeds you choose, eat them in small quantities (an ounce or one-fourth cup), in their more natural state preferably without salt or sugar. Get creative by adding them to your cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, baked goods, and salads. For a really satisfying snack with lots of staying power, eat them with a piece of fresh fruit.

Grace Marks, MPH, CPC is a health educator, certified life coach, motivational speaker, and holistic stress management instructor with Native Empowerment: Solutions for Health and Harmony providing customized training programs and workplace makeovers for tribal organizations and businesses. If you have any questions or comments, please direct them to or visit

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