If you are looking for a snack gift that is healthy, tasty, inexpensive, and convenient, think about nuts. Although nuts are high in calories (160-200 calories per ounce) and fat, they are actually healthy if no more than the recommended amount is consumed. In 2003, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the health claim that eating 1.5 ounces per day of nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. (1.5 ounce or 42.5 gram of nuts is about a handful of nuts.) According to the FDA, only 7 types of nuts are allowed to use this health claim, including: almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachio nuts, and walnuts. This article informs the health benefits of consuming three of these nuts, and provides some ideas for nut gifts.

1. Almonds:

Almonds are actually the seeds of the fruit of the almond tree, and not nuts. Almonds contain a high level of monosaturated fat, which is heart-healthy. Eating almonds as part of your regular diet can increase the level of high density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol, and decrease the level of low density lipoproteins (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol. Therefore, almonds consumption can lower bad cholesterol levels. Almonds are high in potassium and low in sodium, both are important factors that help regulate blood pressure. These nuts are high in fiber, which helps prevent constipation. Almonds are rich in vitamin E which is an antioxidant, phosphorus, iron and magnesium. Moreover, almonds lower the rise in blood sugar and insulin levels after meals, thereby offering protection from diabetes.

2. Pistachios:

Similar to almonds, pistachio has high fiber content (3 grams per ounce), rich in potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. Relative to other nuts, pistachios are high in fat soluble antioxidants including: lutein (which reduces the risk of age-related macular degeneration), beta-carotene and vitamin E. According to the results in a research study published by the American Institute of Nutrition in 2010, participants who consumed one or two servings a day of pistachios for 4 weeks as part of their diet (consisting of 30% total fat) had higher serum level of lutein, beta-carotene, and viatamin E than participants who were on a diet with same total energy and fat intake but no pistachios. Moreover, participants on both pistachio-enriched diets had lower serum oxidized LDL and LDL-cholesterol levels than participants on diet with no pistachios. These findings are significant as oxidized LDL can produce inflammation and plaque buildup inside blood vessels, leading to heart attack or stroke. Thus, a heart-healthy diet including pistachios can lower bad cholesterol level and reduce the risk of heart disease.

3. Peanuts:

Peanuts are actually from a legume family just like a bean or pea. The nuts arise from the stems, but are pushed into the ground by the plant at an early stage, and remain underground as they mature. Whole peanuts contains high amount of protein, fibers (2 grams per ounce). They are also a good source of niacin (vitamin B3), folate (vitamin B9), vitamin E, magnesium, and manganese. Peanuts are high in monounsaturated fats, and can lower blood cholesterol level. Moreover, peanut is a good source of coenzyme Q10, which plays a role in energy production in the cells, and is a fat soluble antioxidant. Peanuts also contain high concentrations of the antioxidant p-coumaric acid, which has been shown to lower the risk of stomach cancer by reducing the formation of cancer causing nitrosamines. Moreover, peanuts contain the bioflavonoid resveratrol, which reduces the risk of heart disease, reduces plague formation in animal brains, and has anti-inflammatory properties.

On the other hand, eating peanuts is not for everyone. Some individuals are allergic to peanuts. Individuals with kidney or gallbladder problems should avoid eating peanuts, because peanuts are high in oxalate, which can increase kidney stone formation. In addition, peanuts contain goitrogen that can interfere with thyroid function. Individuals with thyroid problems may need to avoid peanuts.

In summary, nuts such as almonds, pistachios and peanuts are good sources of fibers, protein and minerals, and may lower the risk of heart disease. In addition, these nuts have their specific health benefits. Thus, it makes sense to consume a combination of nuts instead of only one or two. When sending a nuts gift basket to friends and family members, you can send a nuts gift with an assortment of different nuts, including almonds, pistachios, peanuts, and cashews. For example, You can send them a snackers tray with a combination of 10 different snacks, including honey roasted peanuts, smoked almonds, butter toffee peanuts, corn nuts, cashews, pistachios, cocoa dusted almonds, trail mix, and more. Your recipients can then start enjoying the health benefits these nuts can offer.

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