“Step away from the candy bar!” The all too familiar voice behind me meant business.
I dropped the Snickers onto the counter and literally took a step backward. I was caught. Red handed. I opened my mouth to plead my case. After all, I was in a gas station. My options were limited, right?
My teammate, and accountability partner for the office “Biggest Loser” competition, shook her head at me and proceeded to give me the low down on the hidden gems of the gas station snackage options. Nuts.
Sure, you're standing in the snack isle and your unreasonably drawn to Slim Jims and Baby Ruths, but be strong. Turn your cheek and head to the end of the isle until you find them – nuts – more specifically, unsalted nuts or (better yet) unsalted raw nuts. They've gotten a bad rap in the past because of their fat content, but more and more studies are suggesting that even their fat can be good for you.
How can fat be good for you, you ask? If it's unsaturated. It’s the saturated fat that can raise your cholesterol and increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. But, unsaturated fat can actually lower your cholesterol – not the healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL), but the artery-clogging low-density lipoprotein (LDL). In fact, word on the street is that eating 1.5 ounces of nuts, five days a week, has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.
Here are a few more nutty benefits:
- Protein. Nuts are high in the stuff, making them a great pick-me-up between meals. Yes, that Snickers bar might give you an energy boost, but only briefly because its sugar induced, and then you're headed for a crash and burn. So grab some trail mix instead and you'll be good until your next meal.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Most people associate this with being found in fish, but walnuts are a great source of omega-3s. This nutrient helps fight heart disease, and might even help fight inflammatory diseases like arthritis.
- Antioxidants. Nuts are a good source of antioxidants, which protect your body against cell damage. This means it could help prevent cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other ailments. Several nuts, including almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and Brazils, are good sources of the antioxidants vitamin E and selenium.
- Weight loss. Don’t go getting your hopes up, eating nuts won't make you lose weight. But they can be an important part of well rounded, healthy diet. Not to mention, when you say yes to nuts, you're saying no to that candy bar or those chips you had your eye on.
- Fiber. That’s right, nuts also have fiber, which helps you feel full so you won't need to eat as much. But you don't want to overindulge on nuts either – they can be pretty addicting. So measure out the amount you want instead of grabbing them by the handful straight from the bag.
All in all, the nuts have it. When it comes to healthy, they are a much better choice than the nougat-filled alternative easily found in the gas station aisles. Not to mention, it’s easier to justify those chocolate chips if they’re mingled in with your trial mix.