Bite and Sip

Purdue food scientist has hopeful thoughts about the benefits of nuts

2013-12-19T10:00:00Z Purdue food scientist has hopeful thoughts about the benefits of nutsBy Pat Colander
December 19, 2013 10:00 am  • 

Just in Time for the Holidays: Preliminary results of a new study going on at Purdue West Lafayette on the (possible) healthful effects of nuts---which have gotten incredibly expensive recently---is encouraging for folks who like to eat the generally high-fat snack food. I admit to a bias in this arena. One of the many things I really love about the Atkins Diet, which is one of the few diets I know of that actually generates weight loss for some people, is that you can eat Brazil nuts. At some point early on. After the first two weeks probably. Now, Michael Moss reports in yesterday’s New York Times, that Richard Mattes of Purdue, a respected nutrition scientist, is finding evidence that eating nuts may actually help maintain a healthy weight. Mattes says that first off, even a handful of nuts can make you feel full. As a way too frequent snacker on vending machine peanuts, I can attest to the fact that this is true. One bag of peanuts may contain almost as many calories as a medium-sized turkey sandwich, but it also fills you up---or satiates you, in scientific terms---as much as a meal.

Nuts are high in protein, fiber and unsaturated fats, which are generally good, if you can keep the portion size modest enough. Moss writes that two cups of mixed nuts weighs in around 1600 calories---just shy of a day’s worth of what most of us need. The experiment that Dr. Mattes is conducting is trying to figure out if nuts have staying power as an alternative to other types of snack foods that are not healthful at all. So, the scientists are measuring the brain response to eating a handful of nuts by 20 volunteers, every day for 12 weeks. The only thing that Dr. Mattes could say for sure at this point is that sometimes people get sick of eating nuts and sometimes they crave them even more if they have them every day. But, at least for the holidays I think we can go with it, have the nuts first and the soup last. Until further notice.

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