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Going nuts: sorting through the claims.

Nut labels, ads, and Web sites promise to protect your heart, boost your energy levels, satisfy your hunger, build your muscles, nurture your bones and digestive health, and make you look good in a bikini. Many of those claims are a stretch.

Nuts (and seeds) are good foods. Most are rich in unsaturated fats, magnesium, and copper, with smaller amounts of protein, fiber, and iron. But they're also high in calories. Here's what to believe about nuts ... and what claims to take with a grain of salt.

Information compiled by Melissa Pryputniewicz, with help from Amy Johnson.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

YELLOW POLKA NUT BIKINI

"Planters NUT.rition South Beach Diet Recommended Mix is a savory blend of nuts recommended by the South Beach Diet." says the ad. "So you can enjoy the lightly salted cashews. almonds and macadamias as you count the hours to bikini weather."

How would a food that squeezes 170 calories into 4 tablespoons (or 250 calories into each South Beach Go-Pak) make you look good in a bikini?

When researchers told people to eat nuts (240 to 340 calories' worth a day), they gained little or no weight. (1,2) And when people were given 500 calories' worth of peanuts (3 oz.) every day for two months, they gained only two pounds, instead of the eight pounds you'd expect. (3)

It's not clear why. People may compensate by eating less later, or the calories from nuts may not be fully absorbed.

But the people in those studies got discrete amounts of nuts, not a can or jar to dip into at will. So if you're careful not to overdo it, you may not gain weight. How does that make nuts a food that helps you lose weight? Good question.

YOU GOTTA HAVE HEART

Planters NUT.rition Heart Healthy Mix "may reduce the risk of heart disease," says the can. Impressive.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

But what's that tiny, scrunched, dark print on a dark background? "Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as peanuts, almonds, pistachios, pecans, walnuts & hazelnuts (filberts), as part of a diet low in saturated fat & cholesterol & not resulting in increased caloric intake may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease...."

That's the "qualified" health claim for nuts approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2003. The feds decided that the evidence wasn't strong enough to say that nuts prevent heart disease without the "qualified" part--"suggests but does not prove"--and that labels had to warn consumers not to let nuts boost their calorie intake. So most companies bury the full health claim where people won't notice. Here's what we know about nuts and the heart.

1. Nut eaters. People who eat more nuts are less likely to die of a heart attack. (4,5) But nut eaters are typically leaner, nonsmokers, and more active. Researchers "adjust" for those factors, but can't tell if something else about nut eaters keeps their hearts healthier. So it's safer to rely on studies that feed people nuts to see what happens to their cholesterol.

2. Unsaturated fats. LDL ("bad") cholesterol is 2 to 19 percent lower when people are fed almonds, peanuts, pecans, or walnuts than when they don't eat those nuts. (6) Most other nuts and seeds aren't well studied, but odds are that pistachios, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and soy nuts also lower LDL, and that Brazil nuts, macadamias, and cashews don't (so they're not Best Bites). (See "The Nut Case," p. 14.)

3. How much? In most studies, researchers gave people 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 servings of nuts a day (a serving is about 1/4 cup). (6) in some studies, 1 1/2 servings wasn't enough to lower LDL significantly. Yet 3 1/2 servings of most nuts pack a 600-calorie wallop. (Even 1 1/2 servings means about 250 calories.)

4. Beyond fats. Nuts may lower damaging triglycerides, raise HDL ("good") cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and relax artery linings. But so far, the evidence is preliminary.

ENERGY = CALORIES

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"What were you thinking?" shouts the flight attendant when the passenger in the TV commercial accidentally opens the airplane door. "It was after 3 p.m. Your blood sugar was low," explains the announcer. "Have some Emerald Nuts. They'll keep you sharp."

The evidence that nuts keep you alert? Zero.

Other brands--like Planters NUT.rition Energy Mix-claim to be a "natural source of energy."

Many people think that an "energy-rich" food makes you feel more energetic or stronger. In fact, when the word "energy" appears on food labels, it means "calories." Yup. Nuts are a "natural" source of calories. No longer such a great selling point, huh?

DIGEST THIS

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"Nurtures digestive health," says the label of Snacktrition Cashews with Fiber. "With fiber to help promote digestive health," says Planters NUT.rition Digestive Health Mix.

Nuts and seeds are a decent, though not terrific, source of fiber. Most have 2 to 3 grams per 1/4-cup serving. (That's about 10 percent of a woman's or 7 percent of a man's daily target.) Exceptions: Soy nuts--which are dried beans, not nuts--have about 8 grams of fiber per serving. Pumpkin seeds and cashews have I gram.

So how does Snacktrition get 3 grams of fiber into 1/4 cup of its Sea Salt Cashews with Fiber? "We take a cashew, sprinkle it with fiber, oven-roast it and flavor it with sea salt," says the label. Inulin, a white powder, must be easy to sprinkle.

Planters gets to 3 grams in its Digestive Health Mix by adding inulin to ingredients with fiber (pistachios, almonds, dried cranberries, oats, dried cherries) that have been diluted with fiberless ingredients (sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, oil).

But as far as researchers can tell, inulin has none of the benefits of the intact fiber in whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruit, and nuts. And labels don't let on.

Shopping for Nuts

Here's what to look for in the nut aisle:

* Salt, Salted nuts typically have 100 to 300 mg of sodium in every 1 oz. (1/4-cup) serving. You can dodge it all if the label says "unsalted" or "raw." "50% less salt" or "lightly salted" brands should satisfy a salt craving, but check the Nutrition Facts. A brand without a salt claim may have no more sodium than a lightly salted brand.

* Dry-roasted or oil-roasted or raw? It doesn't matter. Roasted nuts (with or without oil) are no higher in saturated fat or calories.

* Portion control. If you're unlikely to stop at 1/4cup (just 4 flat tablespoons), check out Blue Diamond Natural Almonds, which mark each ounce on the container's "portion control window." Or try Emerald's or Blue Diamond's 100-calorie packs (they contain 2/3 oz.). Better yet, make your own: Toss some nuts into a resealable plastic bag.

* Calories. Nuts are calorie-dense and hard to resist. If you use them to garnish your salads, rice, or cereal, you may be less likely to overdo it.

* Peanut butter. It's a question mark. In theory, peanut butter should have the same impact on cholesterol as peanuts (assuming it contains no partially hydrogenated oil). But (unlike nut eaters) peanut butter eaters have no lower risk of heart disease or obesity. And remember that a serving of peanut butter (190 calories) is only two flat tablespoons. It's easy to eat more.

* Extras. In Nature Valley Granola Nut Clusters, the nuts are dwarfed by oats, sugar, rice flour, and oil. Planters Chocolate Lovers and Mauna Loa Chocolate Macadamias end up with 7 grams of saturated fat and 230 calories per serving (about 10 pieces). Stick with straight nuts.

THE NUT CASE

[GRAPHIC OMITTED]

Which nuts or seeds are good for your heart? All should lower your LDL ("bad") cholesterol if you eat them instead of meat, butter, or other saturated fats. But only nuts that have at least twice as much polyunsaturated fat as saturated fat lower LDL if you eat them instead of pasta, bread, or other carbohydrates. That means pistachios, walnuts, pecans, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, soy nuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds, but not macadamias, cashews, or Brazil nuts (so those three don't get a Best Bite).

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database.

(1) Br. J. Nutr. 94: 859, 2005.

(2) Br. J. Nutr. 98: 651, 2007.

(3) Int. J. Obesity 26:1129, 2002.

(4) BMJ 317: 1341,1998.

(5) Arch. Intern. Med. 162: 1382, 2002.

(6) J. Nutr. 135: 2082, 2005.
IN A NUTSHELL

Individual nuts: Best Bites ([check][check]) have no more than 80
milligrams of sodium per 1/4 cup (1 oz.) and no added sugar or
acesulfame potassium (a poorly tested artificial sweetener).
Honorable Mentions ([check]) can have up to 120 mg of sodium
and 6 grams (1 1/2 tsp.) of added sugar. We disqualified cashews,
Brazil nuts, and macadamias (see "The Nut Case").

Mixed nuts: Best Bites have no more than 80 mg of sodium
and 2 grams of saturated fat, and contain no sugar, acesulfame
potassium, or ingredients like granola or sesame sticks. Honorable
Mentions can have up to 120 mg of sodium and 6 grams of sugar.

Nuts are ranked from least to most sodium and sat fat, then most to
least protein. Sweetened nuts are ranked from least to most sugar,
sodium, and sat fat, then most to least protein. For nuts (like
Brazil nuts or unsalted almonds) that vary very little, one entry
(in italics) covers most brands.

                                                                Protein
                                                   Calories       (g)

                  Almonds (1 oz.--about 25 nuts)

[check][check]    Raw or roasted, unsalted,
                    any brand                         170          6
[check][check]    Planters NUT*rition                 170          6
[check]           Trader Joe's Dry Roasted,
                    50% Less Salt                     180          7
[check]           Back to Nature California,
                    Sea Salt Roasted                  160          6
[check]           Planters Harvest California         160          6
[check]           Blue Diamond BOLD--Habanero
                    BBQ, Lime'n Chili, Salt
                    St Black Pepper, or
                    Wasabi & Soy Sauce (1)            170          6
[check]           Blue Diamond Roasted, Fisher
                    Roasted, or Whole Foods
                    365 Roasted (1)                   170          6
[check]           Planters NUT*rition, Smoked         170          6
                  Trader Joe's--Dry Roasted or
[check]             Marcona Roasted (1)               180          6
                  Blue Diamond Natural Oven
                    Roasted, Sea Salt                 170          6
                  Planters Dry Roasted                160          6
                  Emerald Dry Roasted                 150          4

                  Peanuts (1 oz.--about 30 nuts)

[check][check]    Raw or roasted, unsalted,
                    any brand                         160          7
[check][check]    Planters Cocktail, Lightly
                    Salted                            170          7
[check]           Emerald Dry Roasted, Lightly
                    Salted with Sea Salt              160          7
[check]           Fisher or Planters Dry
                    Roasted, Lightly Salted (1)       160          7
[check]           Fisher Sour Cream St Onion          160          7
[check]           Fisher-Cajun Salsa or
                    Spanish (1)                       160          8
[check]           Emerald Cocktail or Planters
                    Cocktail (1)                      170          7
[check]           Planters Redskin Spanish or
                    Trader Joe's Blister (1)          180          8
                  Nut Harvest Sea Salted              210          8
                  Planters Dry Roasted                160          7
                  Emerald Oven Roasted,
                    Chipotle                          150          6

                  Pistachios (1 oz.--about 45 nuts)

[check][check]    Raw or roasted, unsalted,
                    any brand                         160          6
[check][check]    Trader Joe's, 50% Less Salt         180          6
                  Sunkist                             170          6

                  Mixed Unsweetened Nuts (1 oz.--about 20 to 30 nuts)

[check][check]    Planters NUT*rition--Heart
                    Healthy Mix or South Beach
                    Diet Recommended Mix              170          6
                  Planters Deluxe, Lightly
                    Salted                            170          5
[check][check]    Trader Joe's, 50% Less Salt         210          7
[check][check]    Planters Lightly Salted             170          6
[check][check]    Whole Foods 365 Fancy               180          4
[check][check]    Planters Lovers Mix--Pecan
                    or Pistachio (1)                  170          5
[check]           Planters Harvest, Pistachio
                    Grove Blend                       160          6
[check]           Back to Nature--Cashew,
                    Almond & Pistachio Mix or
                    Tuscan Herb Roasts (1)            170          6
[check]           Emerald or Planters (1)             170          6
[check]           Planters Select, Cashews,
                    Almonds & Pecans                  170          5
                  Planters Deluxe                     170          5
[check]           Emerald, Fisher, or Whole
                    Foods 365 Deluxe (1)              170          5
[check]           True North Almonds,
                    Pistachios, Walnuts, Pecans       190          5

                  Miscellaneous (number of nuts in 1 oz.,
                  raw or roasted)

[check][check]    Hazelnuts or Filberts (20)          180          4
[check][check]    Pecans (20 halves) or
                    Walnuts (15 halves) (1)           190          4
                  Cashews (20)                        160          5
                  Macadamias (70)                     200          2
                  Brazil nuts (s)                     190          4
[check][check]    Pumpkin seeds (1/4 cup)             160          9
                  Macadamias, salted (l0)             200          2
[check]           Pecans, salted (20 halves)          200          3
                  Cashews, salted (20)                160          5
                  Soy nuts, salted (1/4 cup)          120         10

                  Sunflower Seeds (1 oz.--about 1/4 cup)

[check][check]    David Roasted, Reduced Sodium       190          9
[check]           David Roasted--Bar-B-Q &
                    other flavors (1)                 180          8
[check]           Planters Roasted                    180          7
                  David Roasted, Original             190          9

                  100-Calorie Packs (0.6 oz.)

[check][check]    Blue Diamond Whole Natural
                    Almonds, 100 Calories             100          4
[check][check]    Emerald Natural 100
                    Calorie Packs (1)                 100          4
                  Emerald Dry Roasted Almonds,
                    100 Calorie Packs                 100          4

                                                    Sat Fat     Sodium
                                                      (g)        (mg)

                  Almonds (1 oz.--about 25 nuts)

[check][check]    Raw or roasted, unsalted,
                    any brand                          1            0
[check][check]    Planters NUT*rition                  1.5         40
[check]           Trader Joe's Dry Roasted,
                    50% Less Salt                      1           60
[check]           Back to Nature California,
                    Sea Salt Roasted                   1          100
[check]           Planters Harvest California          1          100
[check]           Blue Diamond BOLD--Habanero
                    BBQ, Lime'n Chili, Salt
                    St Black Pepper, or
                    Wasabi & Soy Sauce (1)             1          110
[check]           Blue Diamond Roasted, Fisher
                    Roasted, or Whole Foods
                    365 Roasted (1)                    1          110
[check]           Planters NUT*rition, Smoked          1          120
                  Trader Joe's--Dry Roasted or
[check]             Marcona Roasted (1)                1.5        120
                  Blue Diamond Natural Oven
                    Roasted, Sea Salt                  1          140
                  Planters Dry Roasted                 1          150
                  Emerald Dry Roasted                  1          230

                  Peanuts (1 oz.--about 30 nuts)

[check][check]    Raw or roasted, unsalted,
                    any brand                          2            0
[check][check]    Planters Cocktail, Lightly
                    Salted                             2           60
[check]           Emerald Dry Roasted, Lightly
                    Salted with Sea Salt               2           90
[check]           Fisher or Planters Dry
                    Roasted, Lightly Salted (1)        2          100
[check]           Fisher Sour Cream St Onion           2          110
[check]           Fisher-Cajun Salsa or
                    Spanish (1)                        2          120
[check]           Emerald Cocktail or Planters
                    Cocktail (1)                       2          120
[check]           Planters Redskin Spanish or
                    Trader Joe's Blister (1)           2.5        120
                  Nut Harvest Sea Salted               2.5        130
                  Planters Dry Roasted                 2          190
                  Emerald Oven Roasted,
                    Chipotle                           1.5        400

                  Pistachios (1 oz.--about 45 nuts)

[check][check]    Raw or roasted, unsalted,
                    any brand                          1.5          0
[check][check]    Trader Joe's, 50% Less Salt          1.5         80
                  Sunkist                              1.5        160

                  Mixed Unsweetened Nuts (1 oz.--about 20 to 30 nuts)

[check][check]    Planters NUT*rition--Heart
                    Healthy Mix or South Beach
                    Diet Recommended Mix               2           50
                  Planters Deluxe, Lightly
                    Salted                             2.5         50
[check][check]    Trader Joe's, 50% Less Salt          2           60
[check][check]    Planters Lightly Salted              2           60
[check][check]    Whole Foods 365 Fancy                2           70
[check][check]    Planters Lovers Mix--Pecan
                    or Pistachio (1)                   2           80
[check]           Planters Harvest, Pistachio
                    Grove Blend                        1.5        100
[check]           Back to Nature--Cashew,
                    Almond & Pistachio Mix or
                    Tuscan Herb Roasts (1)             1.5        100
[check]           Emerald or Planters (1)              2          100
[check]           Planters Select, Cashews,
                    Almonds & Pecans                   2          100
                  Planters Deluxe                      2.5        100
[check]           Emerald, Fisher, or Whole
                    Foods 365 Deluxe (1)               2          110
[check]           True North Almonds,
                    Pistachios, Walnuts, Pecans        2          110

                  Miscellaneous (number of nuts in 1 oz.,
                  raw or roasted)

[check][check]    Hazelnuts or Filberts (20)           1.5          0
[check][check]    Pecans (20 halves) or
                    Walnuts (15 halves) (1)            2            0
                  Cashews (20)                         2.5          0
                  Macadamias (70)                      3.5          0
                  Brazil nuts (s)                      4.5          0
[check][check]    Pumpkin seeds (1/4 cup)              2.5         10 *
                  Macadamias, salted (l0)              3.5         80
[check]           Pecans, salted (20 halves)           2          110
                  Cashews, salted (20)                 2.5        130
                  Soy nuts, salted (1/4 cup)           1          230

                  Sunflower Seeds (1 oz.--about 1/4 cup)

[check][check]    David Roasted, Reduced Sodium        1.5         80
[check]           David Roasted--Bar-B-Q &
                    other flavors (1)                  1.5        100
[check]           Planters Roasted                     1.5        120
                  David Roasted, Original              1.5        140

                  100-Calorie Packs (0.6 oz.)

[check][check]    Blue Diamond Whole Natural
                    Almonds, 100 Calories              0.5          0
[check][check]    Emerald Natural 100
                    Calorie Packs (1)                  1            0
                  Emerald Dry Roasted Almonds,
                    100 Calorie Packs                  0.5        150

                                                                Protein
                                                   Calories       (g)

                  Sweetened Nuts
                  (1 oz.-1/4 cup, unless noted)

                  Emerald Almonds, Cocoa Roast        150          6
[check]           Blue Diamond Natural Oven
                    Roasted Almonds-Cinnamon
                    Brown Sugar, Honey, or
                    Vanilla Bean (1)                  160          6
[check]           Trader Joe's Mixed Nuts,
                    Honey Roasted                     190          5
[check]           Blue Diamond Almonds,
                    Honey Roasted                     160          5
[check]           True North Clusters (1)             170          5
[check]           Fisher Almonds, Honey Roasted       160          5
[check]           Fisher Pecans, Praline              180          2
                  Planters NUT*rition, Energy
                    Mix                               190          5
[check]           Planters Peanuts, Honey
                    Roasted                           160          6
[check]           Planters Honey Roasted-Mixed
                    Nuts or Peanuts &
                    Cashews (1)                       160          6
                  Nature Valley Granola Nut
                    Clusters (1)                      150          4
                  Planters NUT*rition,
                    Digestive Health Mix              150          4
                  Planters Chocolate Lovers
                    (l0 pieces) (1)                   230          5
                  Mauna Loa Macadamias,
                    Chocolate (9 pieces) (1)          220          3

                                                    Sat Fat     Sodium
                                                      (g)        (mg)

                  Sweetened Nuts
                  (1 oz.-1/4 cup, unless noted)

                  Emerald Almonds, Cocoa Roast         1           30
[check]           Blue Diamond Natural Oven
                    Roasted Almonds-Cinnamon
                    Brown Sugar, Honey, or
                    Vanilla Bean (1)                   1           30
[check]           Trader Joe's Mixed Nuts,
                    Honey Roasted                      2           50
[check]           Blue Diamond Almonds,
                    Honey Roasted                      1           60
[check]           True North Clusters (1)              2           70
[check]           Fisher Almonds, Honey Roasted        1          110
[check]           Fisher Pecans, Praline               1.5        110
                  Planters NUT*rition, Energy
                    Mix                                2          110
[check]           Planters Peanuts, Honey
                    Roasted                            1.5        120
[check]           Planters Honey Roasted-Mixed
                    Nuts or Peanuts &
                    Cashews (1)                        2          120
                  Nature Valley Granola Nut
                    Clusters (1)                       1          160
                  Planters NUT*rition,
                    Digestive Health Mix               1           50
                  Planters Chocolate Lovers
                    (l0 pieces) (1)                    6.5         20
                  Mauna Loa Macadamias,
                    Chocolate (9 pieces) (1)           6.5         20

                                                     Sugar
                                                      (g)

                  Sweetened Nuts
                  (1 oz.-1/4 cup, unless noted)

                  Emerald Almonds, Cocoa Roast         1
[check]           Blue Diamond Natural Oven
                    Roasted Almonds-Cinnamon
                    Brown Sugar, Honey, or
                    Vanilla Bean (1)                   3

[check]           Trader Joe's Mixed Nuts,
                    Honey Roasted                      4
[check]           Blue Diamond Almonds,
                    Honey Roasted                      5
[check]           True North Clusters (1)              5
[check]           Fisher Almonds, Honey Roasted        5
[check]           Fisher Pecans, Praline               5
                  Planters NUT*rition, Energy
                    Mix                                5
[check]           Planters Peanuts, Honey
                    Roasted                            5
[check]           Planters Honey Roasted-Mixed
                    Nuts or Peanuts &
                    Cashews (1)                        5
                  Nature Valley Granola Nut
                    Clusters (1)                       8
                  Planters NUT*rition,
                    Digestive Health Mix              11
                  Planters Chocolate Lovers
                    (l0 pieces) (1)                   14
                  Mauna Loa Macadamias,
                    Chocolate (9 pieces) (1)          17

[check][check] Best Bite. [check] Honorable Mention. (1) Average.
(A) Contains ace-sulfame potassium. * Shelled (with the shells, 940
mg of sodium).

Daily Limits (for a 2,000-calorie diet): Saturated Fat: 20 grams.
Sodium;1,500 milligrams. Sugar.40 grams (10 teaspoons).

Source: company information. The use of information from this
article for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited without
written permission from CSPI.
COPYRIGHT 2009 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:BRAND-NAME RATING
Author:Hurley, Jayne; Liebman, Bonnie
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2009
Words:3088
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