The US Food and Drug Administration is now admitting a health claim for ... nuts. Their newly approved statement: "Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease."
Cholesterol is still portrayed as an enemy of good health, perpetrating the old oversimplified approach, but at least we are moving in the right direction
Even when the FDA watchdogs get close to getting it right, they seem to choke at the last minute. That's what happened earlier this month when they announced the shocking news that - are you sitting down? - nuts can be healthy for your heart.
For some of you this isn't news, of course. For years we've been telling whoever wants to listen about the different ways that nuts can help keep you healthy. But now, FDA officials have finally caught up with the real world, announcing that the producers of some nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts) and nut products will be allowed make this claim:
"Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease."
But before you take their qualified, carefully worded "endorsement" to heart, you should know there are four nut varieties, that didn't make the cut. According to the FDA, cashews, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, and pine nuts have too much saturated fat. So does that mean that these four outlaws are unhealthy?
Let's put it this way: Expect the same carefully worded announcement about these nuts in the very near future, however it was simply too much of an admittance of being so unbelievably wrong for so long in the face of so much evidence to the contrary. The cashews, macadamias and Brazil and Pine nuts are higher in saturated fats and according to the old way of thinking that makes them bad.
During the low-fat mania of the 80s and 90s, nuts got a bad rap. "Too high in fat," went the thinking. And the over-simplified, flawed logic followed: fat intake raises cholesterol, cholesterol causes heart disease, therefore;
nuts contribute to heart disease. Verdict: Nuts are bad for you. Case closed.
The sad irony is that anyone who paid attention to that misguided advice was rejecting a natural method to help prevent heart disease, and missed out on an excellent source of fiber, protein, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.
Fortunately, long-term studies were underway that would eventually dispel the nonsense. Research from the Iowa Women's Study (more than 40,000 postmenopausal women followed for eight years) showed that subjects who ate nuts on a regular basis reduced their heart disease risk by 40 percent.
And in the similar Nurses' Health Study, those who ate five or more ounces of nuts each day had a 39 percent lower risk of a fatal heart attack than women who never ate nuts at all.
These are just two of many studies that refuted the idea that fat content automatically upped the risk of heart disease.
William Campbell Douglass, M.D., summed up the situation,(Real Health newsletter) stating, "It is simply wrong to blame fats for degenerative conditions. The scientific research and the historical data of tribal eating habits simply don't support the saturated fat/atherosclerosis theory of heart disease."
And addressing nuts specifically in the same newsletter, Dr. Douglass said, "What the nutrition experts won't admit is that nuts keep you slimmer because they're 'fattier' than other snacks. Their fat content fills you up on much less than you would eat of other foods like pretzels."
Dr. Douglass' recommendation: "Forget the past 30 years of nutritional hogwash: fat does NOT make you fat! So go ahead, eat all the nuts you want."
What about carbohydrates?
Because nuts have good fiber, carbohydrate content isn't a serious issue (unless you're on a zero-carb diet). But if you're trying to curb the carbs, the nut to avoid is the cashew. One ounce of cashews (about a handful) contains 9 grams of carbs, but only 1 gram of fiber. That's 8 net carbs, and no other nut comes close to that amount. The next highest in the carb category is the pistachio with 5 net carbs. Most of the others have only 2 or 3 net carbs.
The lowest on the carbo-meter is the pecan, with just 1 net carb per ounce.
Furthermore, walnuts are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, and walnuts also deliver vitamin B-6 and folate. And this packaging of multiple nutrients is typical among all the
If you want more calcium in your diet, almonds are a good source. They also deliver magnesium, which helps the absorption of calcium. Good amounts of vitamin E are found in both almonds and hazelnuts. Pecans have copper and potassium (as do hazelnuts). The peanut contains good amounts of niacin, folate, vitamin E, and a rich combination of minerals. And take note of the high selenium content of Brazil nuts, which also deliver linoleic acid and zinc.
So spread the word: the dark age of nuts has ended. Not because they've received a half-hearted FDA seal of approval, but because the evidence of their health benefits has become irrefutable.