Most of us love to snack on things in between meals, but also worry about our weight and overall health. Click to hear KMZU’s Mike Stone speak with Susan Mills-Gray, Nutrition & Health Education Specialist with the University of Missouri Extension.

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With summer right around the corner you may be one of millions that are looking to slim down or improve your overall health. Nutritionist Mills-Gray says nuts, specifically tree nuts, is a great choice for heart health.

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Another reason cited by Mills-Gray is phytochemicals that relax blood vessels and help to lower cholesterol. Again, choose walnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, pecans, macadamia, Brazil, hazelnut and pine for the best results.

For more information on the benefits of tree nuts daily, visit the MU Extension website.

Press Release from University of Missouri Extension

5 Reasons to Choose Nuts Daily

(BLUE SPRINGS, MO – April 28, 2014) Do you want to make a simple change in your diet that pays off big in health rewards?  Then add a small handful of nuts each day to your diet!  “Tree nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashew, pecans, macadamia, Brazil, hazelnut, and pine, are nutrient powerhouses,” says Susan Mills-Gray, Nutrition and Health Specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Nuts reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by lowering LDL (lousy) cholesterol, lowering total cholesterol level and raising HDL (happy) cholesterol.  Nuts also lower blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels to improve blood flow.  Improved heart health leads to improved brain function, so nuts protect cognitive function as we age.

Nuts play a key role in diabetes management with their cholesterol lowering effect, as well as improving blood glucose metabolism.  Recent studies have shown that nut consumption actually lowers mortality risk from heart disease, cancer, and lung disease.

Now we know that lots of people avoid nuts because nuts are high in calories.  “Nuts actually can help you LOSE weight,” Mills-Gray adds.  “Those persons who consume tree nuts regularly tend to weigh about 5 pounds less than those who avoid nuts.”  When consuming nuts, you only absorb about 80% of the calories, plus the protein and the fiber in the nut actually helps you feel fuller longer.  While it’s true that nuts are high in calories due to the fat content, that fat is actually heart healthy.

So how do you add nuts without piling on the weight?  Limit yourself to a small handful daily—1 to 2 ounces (¼ to 1/3 cup).  Replace current snack choices with nuts.  Consider using nuts as the protein for one meal daily.  Avoid salted nut varieties to reduce your sodium intake.

For more information, contact specialist’s name, number, e-mail or visit your local Extension Center or