Nutrition in a nutshell… literally!

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

nuts are healthy
These are hazelnuts. They are really high in fat, so eat them in moderation.

Everyone knows that squirrels love nuts. Well, they’re definitely smart, because nuts are an important part of any healthy diet. Just a handful can provide plenty of wholesome nutrients, so here are a few crunchy suggestions the next time you’re looking for a snack.

Walnuts are a great place to start. These brain-shaped nuts are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to healthy brains, hearts, and joints. Additionally, they’re loaded with tryptophan, an “amino” acid that inspires sleepiness. Since walnuts also promote the sleep hormone melatonin, they may be the answer for a good night’s rest.

Trying to stay active and alert during the day? Keep a small bag of hazelnuts to munch on. These nuts may have extremely high amounts of monounsaturated fats (which are considered healthy at low amounts), but they also have high levels of the mineral potassium.

This element promotes healthy muscle and nerve communication and can even offset high blood pressure.

Peanuts can help clear arteries and relieve blood pressure too, however, they aren’t actually nuts. As a matter of fact, they’re legumes, which puts them in the same family as beans and peas. Even though these aren’t exactly nuts, peanuts have just as many healthy benefits as one. For example, they are packed with antioxidants, which helps fight dangerous chemicals floating around in the body. Additionally, peanuts can lower chemicals in the blood known as triglycerides – fat found in the blood that hardens arteries.

If you do choose to make nuts a regular snack, be sure not to make portions too large – a handful should be enough to reap the benefits. Lastly, avoid any salted or oil-roasted types, and just go raw.

Featured image courtesy of flydime on Wikimedia. Image of hazelnuts courtesy of Nova on Wikimedia.