Heart Healthy Nuts and Fish for Valentine's Day

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AlmondsInstead of treating your sweetheart to a steak dinner this Valentine’s Day, be good to your loved ones’ hearts by offering nuts and fish!

Why nuts and fish are good for your heart
What makes nuts and fish so great? There are several contributing factors. Fish is delicious and an excellent source of lean protein. Nuts are filling, portable, tasty, and so nutritious that recent studies showed people who ate nuts lived longer, healthier lives than those who didn’t. A report from the November 2013 issue of New England Journal of Medicine showed that daily nut-eaters were less likely to die of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease. This report also included the peanut, which is actually classified as a legume.

The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids
But the big bonus of eating nuts and fish is that those foods can be excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

In most individuals, dietary intake of omega-3 fats is way too low. Eating more omega-3s is important because the body uses them to form special, unique molecules. These molecules perform functions within cells that lead to improved health.

It’s widely known that omega-3s are great for the heart and cardiovascular system. They keep the heartbeat stable, decrease blood clots, keep arteries open and lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

Consuming omega-3s are beneficial for cancer patients because they can slow tumor development. In addition, studies show chemotherapy is more effective, and patients have fewer side effects and lose less weight if omega-3s are included in their diet.

Omega-3s are also effective at stabilizing moods, which has proven helpful in treating bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The omega-3 nuts include: walnuts, butternuts, Brazil Nuts.

While omega-3 nuts are special, all nuts are unique in their own right. Collectively, all nuts are a good sources of fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and protein, and all of them can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels (the bad “loser” cholesterol). Individually, each variety boasts its own balance of unique benefits:

Typically characterized as a sweet nut, a one-ounce serving of almonds provides 35% daily value of vitamin E, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 6 grams of protein and 8% daily value of calcium. The nutrients in almonds are comparable to those in broccoli or a cup of green tea. Studies show that vitamin E may help stop plaque development in the arteries. Excess plaque in the arteries can lead to cardiovascular disease.

These nuts have an earthy sweet flavor profile. They are low in saturated fat and rich in antioxidants, dietary fiber and phytochemicals. They are an excellent source of vitamin E and can help alter plasma lipids to reduce coronary heart disease risks.

Pecans have a rich buttery flavor and contain a variety of vitamins and minerals. A one-ounce serving has about the same amount of fiber as a medium apple. Adding fiber to your diet is a great idea because it lowers cholesterol, aids in digestion, and helps you feel full faster so you’ll eat less. Fiber also plays a role in preventing diabetes.

Pistachios have a pungent earthy flavor; some even say they taste like hot dogs! These tiny green nuts contain around 10% of the daily value of dietary fiber per one-ounce serving as well as vitamin B-6, thiamin, phosphorus and copper. Pistachios, along with sunflower kernels, are a rich source of phyosterols (a healthy fat) that helps to lower cholesterol.

Adding nuts to your diet
To gain the maximum nutritional benefits, try mixed nuts, but avoid salted and flavored varieties which can add sugar and thus quickly become an unhealthy snack.

If you’re new to nuts, try these suggestions for adding nuts to your diet:

  • spread nut butter on your morning toast instead of butter or cream cheese
  • sprinkle chopped nuts on cereal or yogurt
  • toss nuts into a salad or stir-fry
  • top fruit or crackers with nut butter
  • try nut-encrusted fish or chicken, such as pecan-encrusted trout

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