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When it comes to their reputation for health, nuts seem like a mixed bag: On one hand, they’re high in fat and calories. On the other, they’ve got antioxidants aplenty and can reduce blood pressure. Dr. Yikyung Park, a Washington University researcher at Siteman Cancer Center and an associate professor of surgery at Washington University School of Medicine, says that nuts’ benefits are well-documented: “Newer research shows that consuming nuts – in moderation – is associated with a lot of positive health outcomes,” Dr. Park says. “In fact, regularly consuming nuts may reduce your risk for many common diseases, like heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.”

They are also among the building blocks for healthy eating patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. “While the evidence for whether nuts can help you lose weight is mixed, studies have shown that nuts can help you maintain a healthy weight,” Dr. Park says. “They’re very calorie-dense, but they’re also low in carbs, and the fiber in nuts may keep your body from absorbing all of those calories and keep you feeling fuller for longer.”

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Sweet & Spicy Mixed Nuts

Nuts’ natural oils are yet another goldmine. “Everybody talks about the benefits from fatty acids found in fish, but nuts have them too,” Dr. Park says. “People do have to be a bit careful that they don’t eat too many. Have nuts instead of a chocolate bar as a healthy snack. Eat them as a replacement for unhealthy items like chips, otherwise you’re just adding calories, which won’t help you.”

Dr. Yikyung Park

Dr. Yikyung Park, Washington University associate professor of surgery at Siteman Cancer Center. Photo provided by Siteman Cancer Center

Keep in mind that one serving of nuts is a little less than a handful, so make your snack count: “The nutritional content will be slightly different for various nuts, so it’s a good idea to consume a mix of nuts rather than just one kind,” Dr. Park says. So bring on the party mix! In moderation, of course.

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In Good Taste is brought to you in partnership with Siteman Cancer Center. Watch for more healthy, seasonal cooking ideas each month.