Q: Why are certain foods like Brazil nuts important in a woman’s diet? What are some others?
A: It is important for all women to eat a heart-healthy diet to protect themselves against heart attacks and stroke (cardiovascular disease)—the leading cause of death and disability in American women—and nuts are a highly nutritious, heart-healthy food that should be a daily addition to one’s diet. Nuts contain a treasure chest full of nutrients such as protein, fiber, antioxidants (such as vitamin E and selenium), cholesterol-lowering plant sterols, and “good” fats such as the omega-3s and monounsaturated fats.
One caveat regarding nuts is that nuts are not created equally. The FDA has allowed a heart health claim for only seven types of nuts: almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios and some pine nuts. This is because these nuts all contain less than 4 grams of saturated fat per 50 grams of nuts. Notice that Brazil nuts did not make the cut. Brazil nuts are a nutritious food, exceptionally high in selenium and magnesium, but are also among the types of nuts that are high in saturated fat. Saturated fat is the most potent cholesterol-raising substance in our diet, so we need to cut way back on our intake. Thus, these nuts would not be your best bet.
Just remember not to go too nuts for nuts, as they are a very concentrated source of calories (due to their high fat—albeit good fat—content). Try and get about 1.5 ounces of nuts (about a handful) daily from one of the “magnificent 7” to help keep the cardiologist away!