The good food news continues. First we were told that eggs are our friends after all and now food writer Jane Brody recently wrote in The New York Times that unlike what she and I and lots of other people have always believed, nuts are not fattening. Hoo-ray! She wrote, “Sadly, for more than half of my life, I had avoided some of nature’s most perfect and healthful foods: nuts and peanuts. I had been mistakenly told as a teenager that nuts were fattening and constipating, effects I certainly wanted to avoid.” Fortunately for me, in my skinny teenage years, “fattening” was an attribute. So I moved into my not-skinny adult years with a love of nuts of all kinds, and now Brody’s research gives me permission to bulk up on them even more. She cites studies that indicated that “the more nuts people consumed the lower their death rates from all causes and especially from heart disease and stroke.” Her article acknowledged that allergies to nuts, and particularly to peanuts, seems to be more prevalent than ever, but even there, the news is encouraging. Two recent studies point the way to preventing children from developing such allergies. Women who consumed the most peanuts during their pregnancy seemed to have children less likely to develop peanut allergies, she reported. And another study suggests introducing peanuts into the diets of infants 4 to 11 months old – ground up and in nut butters of course – could reduce the children’s risk of being allergic at age 5. And yes, Brody wrote, “nuts are high in fat and contain more calories per gram (9) than protein or sugar (4 grams), even more than alcohol (7 grams),” but when consumed in reasonable quantities – the key phrase! – “are not fattening and can even help people lose weight and maintain the loss.” Whoo-ee!! One of my favorite lunches, a holdover from my childhood, is a cream cheese and walnut sandwich. (Cream cheese and olives is good too. Actually, pretty much anything with cream cheese, speaking of fattening.) I always wondered but never asked if my family began making the sandwiches with nuts during wartime meat-rationing times. Nuts are a source of protein and other nutrients and probably helped to stretch the food budget dollar. There is one bit of bad news in Brody’s article. Two exceptions to the claim that nuts added to an otherwise healthful diet can reduce the risk of heart disease: macadamia nuts and cashews, both too high in saturated fat to qualify. Cashews, huh? Those things I buy when guests are invited to dinner and then polish off myself after they’ve left. Bummer.
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