DNC News


People are afraid of nuts.
Honestly, over and over, people tell me that they are trying not to eat nuts.
'Too fattening,' or 'Bad for my heart.' are the justifications for this unwarranted abstinence.

Nuts taste good. They are good for you. They do not raise risk of heart disease. In fact they lower it.

Several recent studies looked at this question.
Dr. Wanda Morgan, a professor at New Mexico State University had a group of volunteers eat a daily dose of 68 grams of pecans (about 3/4 cup of shelled nuts) a day for two months. Her test subjects were not told to change their diets in any other way, they could eat whatever they wanted. After the two months there was no change in weight: adding nuts to the diet wasn't fattening. What the pecans did change were cholesterol levels. Cholesterol levels dropped significantly during the two month period.[1]

There are several epidemiological studies that have shown positive associations with eating nuts and health. The Seventh Day Adventist Health Study [2] showed that eating nuts more than four times a week protected people from heart attacks. The Nurses' Health Study [3] also found that nut eaters (in this case 5 ounces or more a week) had fewer heart attacks.

Another study, this time in Japan, looked at the effect of adding about 50 grams of walnuts to a typical Japanese diet. Total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol were both lowered eating the nuts. The ratio of good HDL cholesterol to bad LDL cholesterol also improved during this study.[4]

Speaking about nuts, I can't leave out peanuts. 'Too much fat in peanut butter,' people tell me, "I try not to eat peanut butter very often." Well it seems that peanuts are the same story. Adding peanuts to a healthy diet both lowers total cholesterol and increases the relative amount of HDL (GOOD) cholesterol thus reducing heart disease risk.[5] Snacking on peanuts and peanut butter is an effective way to control hunger without leading to weight gain. following a snack of peanuts or peanut butter, participants in one study reported reduced hunger that lasted for two and one-half hours. When fed typical portions of other snacks, hunger returned within 30 minutes. [6]

Peanuts are an excellent source for two valuable phytonutrients: resveratrol [7] and betasitosterol [8] . As you may recall, resveratrol is a chemical found in grape skins and may account for the health benefits of wine. Resveratrol improves cardiovascular health and is currently a hot item in the research and supplement world. "Resveratrol has been shown to modulate the metabolism of lipids, and to inhibit the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins and the aggregation of platelets. Moreover, as phytoestrogen, resveratrol may provide cardiovascular protection. This compound also possesses anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties." [9]

Betasitosterol a kind of plant cholesterol was initially promoted as a cholesterol lowering agent in humans. More recently it has been found useful in treating a wide range of immune disorders especially auto immune problems and is sold as the trademarked product Moducare.

The bottom line here is that nuts are good food. The added fat doesn't equal added pounds and weight gain. The types of oil in nuts decrease risk of heart disease and other nutrients may decrease cancer incidence.

As healthy as nuts are, the following recipes may not necessarily be good for you, but this being the holiday season, perhaps this information will help you rationalize that they are.


Maple Walnut Pie
6 eggs beaten
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup maple syrup
1TB vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup melted butter
Mix eggs, syrups, honey and vanilla. Add nuts, raisin and melted butter and pour into an unbaked pie shell. Bake at 350 for 40-60 minutes or until it no longer ripples/sloshes when gently rattled.

Classic Pecan Pie
1 8 inch pie shell, unbaked
1 cup pecan halves
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 Teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup butter, melted
prehat oven to 450. Spread nuts in pie shell. Beat eggs till light, add sugar and rest of ingredients. Pour over pecans. Moving a filled pie can be messy so put the pie on the oven rack before pouring the filling in. Bake 10 minutes and then reduce heat to 350 and bake about 35 minutes longer.

1. Morgan w. Pecans lower low density lipoprotein cholesterol in people with normal lipid levels. J Am Diet Assoc. 2000;100:312-318
2. Arch Intern Med. 1992;152:1416-1424
3. Br Med J, 1998;317:1341-1345
4. Katsumi M, Sato M, et al. Walnuts lower serum cholesterol in Japanese men and women. J Nutr 2000;130:171-176
5. O'Byrne DJ, Knauft DA, Shireman RB Low fat-monounsaturated rich diets containing high-oleic peanuts improve serum lipoprotein profiles. Lipids 1997 Jul;32(7):687-95
6. International Journal of Obesity, September, 2000
7. Sanders TH, McMichael RW Jr, Hendrix KW Occurrence of resveratrol in edible peanuts J Agric Food Chem 2000 Apr;48(4):1243-6
8. Awad AB, Chan KC, Downie AC, Fink CS Peanuts as a source of beta-sitosterol, a sterol with anticancer properties Nutr Cancer 2000;36(2):238-41.
9. Fremont L Biological effects of resveratrol.Life Sci 2000 Jan 14;66(8):663-73

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