Five Nuts to Watch in 2010

You may think I'm nuts for this post, and I am. I am really excited about it! I am excited because I think it strongly demonstrates how important associations are in the advocacy campaigns for their members. Over the years I have had the opportunity to be a member of some benign and some really valuable and strong organizations.

Advocating for the rights and interests of its constituency should be an association's top mission, but often, sadly the top spot often falls to other more self serving purposes for existence. I love this piece because it clearly illustrates how a smart group with strong research was able to lobby for national credibility and awareness without having to spend millions of dollars on another "milk mustache" campaign.

Nuts of all types have had their ups and downs as far as the American diet is concerned. They lost ground in low-fat diets of the past millennium, their carbohydrates were scorned by the Atkins diet and nuts were further scarred by the Peanut Corp. of America salmonella contamination early this year.

But they keep bouncing back. Why? Because nuts are excellent sources of protein, minerals, monounsaturated fats and other nutrients, and they’re good for the heart. And consumers increasingly are getting those messages.

Nuts in 2003 received the FDA’s first qualified health claim for a food: “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.” The FDA announcement was in response to a petition from the International Tree Nut Council’s (INC) Nutrition Research & Education Foundation.

“More than 30 studies have shown that including nuts in the diet can reduce the risk of heart disease regardless of the individual nut studied,” said Guy Johnson, at the time nutrition consultant to INC and author of the INC health claim petition. In addition to being good sources of unsaturated fats, which have been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels, most nuts contain a variety of other potential cardio-protective components such as vitamin E, selenium, magnesium, copper, potassium, betasitosterol and omega-3 fatty acids.

Five healthy nuts to watch (and include in your formulations) in the new year:

•Almonds: Just a quarter cup of almonds contains nearly 25 percent of the recommended daily value of magnesium, plus significant amounts of potassium, manganese, copper, the antioxidants vitamin E and selenium, and calcium. In fact, a quarter cup of almonds has almost as much calcium as a quarter cup of milk. They also make for a healthy colon. A study found that animals (which were exposed to a colon-cancer-causing agent) given whole almonds had fewer signs of colon cancer than animals given almond oil or no almonds. Researchers suspect the benefit may be due to almonds’ high fiber content. And because 70 percent of the fat they contain is the healthy monounsaturated variety, they are believed to believed to lower cholesterol.

•Walnuts: Full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which have been found to protect the heart, walnuts may promote better cognitive function and provide anti-inflammatory benefits for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema and psoriasis. And their antioxidant compound ellagic acid is known to fight cancer and support the immune system.

•Cashews: Not just bar or party food, cashews are gaining formulation respect because they are lower in fat than most nuts, and 65 percent of this fat is unsaturated fatty acids. Of this, 90 percent is oleic acid, the heart-healthy fat found in olive oil. They’re also good sources of copper, magnesium, zinc, iron and biotin.

•Pecans: Another nut with significant proof that it lowers cholesterol. Clinical research studies evaluating the impact of pecans on serum cholesterol have found pecans can significantly help lower blood cholesterol when consumed as part of a heart-healthy diet, according to the National Pecan Shellers Assn. They also an excellent source of 19 vitamins and minerals including vitamins E and A, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, several B vitamins and zinc.

•Macadamia Nuts: While having some of the highest levels of calories (200 per serving) and total fat (22g), they’re also the highest in monounsaturated fat. Macadamias are high in protein, fiber, potassium and magnesium. And since most come from Hawaii, they have cachet.
Source: The Next Wave: Wellness Food Trends for 2010