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Health nut.

Legend has it that the pistachio nut was a favourite of the Queen of Sheba.

It is said that lovers met beneath the trees of the Middle East in ancient times to hear the pistachios crack open on moonlit nights for the promise of good fortune.

Their history is certainly romantic.

Now fast forward to modern times and all of a sudden we have discovered (or rediscovered) their health-giving properties.

Pistachios in the diet can significantly reduce cholesterol and help prevent narrowing of the arteries, new research has shown.

One or two handfuls of the nuts can make a big enough difference to lower the risk of heart disease, say scientists.

Volunteers who ate three ounces of pistachios a day for one month lowered their total blood cholesterol by 8.4%.

Good news which shows that snacking from that bowl of nuts shouldn't be viewed only as a savoury alternative to pigging out on chocolates.

A growing body of research is showing that eating them may have long-term health benefits. Not only are they packed with minerals, including iron and vitamins, but they may also help to protect us from illnesses such as heart disease, and breast cancer.

Yet who does eat them in Britain? Very few, we would hazard. While they are undoubtedly popular during Christmas they don't make a substantial contribution to the British diet.

The figures show only 21% of men and 20% of women eat them at all, perhaps because many people are aware they are relatively high in fat and calories.

Yet they would be wrong to think that. As the British Nutrition Foundation points out, unsalted nuts are definitely a healthy food. Although some nuts are relatively high in fat, it's the healthier, mono-unsaturated fat they contain, like olive oil, which has been proven to have heart-protective effects.

Nutritionists agree that well-timed healthy snacks can help prevent those between-meals bouts of hunger, low blood sugar levels and general grumpiness.

Perhaps we all ought to go nuts for nuts.
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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:May 12, 2007
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