DR. DAVE HEPBURN  |  JUNE 19, 2013

Keep your hands off my nuts!

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On rare occasions, when I find my pantry is low on the essential food groups such as Cocoa Puffs, Snickers and Dr. Pepper, I go grocery shopping. Not one to linger too long in the tofu and wheat germ aisle I slink over to the bulk food section, salivating fondly over these massive barrels of massive calories. When it comes to the cases of nuts, admittedly, I am a bit of a nutcase. I scoop up a large mixture of nuts, flick aside the ugly Brazil nuts, flick in a few more cashews and make for my pantry. But I happen to have two teenage sons/squirrels nesting in my home. By the time I get around to treating myself I notice all of the cashews have mysteriously fallen out of the bag. My “Keep your hands off my nuts!” command does nothing but garner snickers, which, in fact, is one of the more essential and lovely food groups. Returning later, the almonds have been selectively extricated and are gone. Finally the walnuts are freed from the mix, leaving me with nothing but a bag of filberts and salt. This drives me ... exactly.

Nuts, though unquestionably chock full of fat, just might be the healthiest snack in your cupboard.

ALMONDS: A handful of almonds a day will keep the cardiovascular surgeon away. The lowering of LDL cholesterol is essential for routine heart pump maintenance. In those who are at risk of heart disease, the aggressive lowering of LDL cholesterol is necessary. According to the nutty professors who study these things, a daily handful of almonds can lower LDL cholesterol enough to reduce cardiovascular disease by a whopping 20 percent!

In some cases a handful of almonds may be used instead

?instead of cholesterol-lowering medication. Almonds are also rich in folate, a vitamin important in keeping hearts, fetuses, bone and brain healthy.

CASHEWS: Gesundheit. These luxurious nuts are nothing to sneeze at. Cashews are rich in selenium, a mineral shown to protect against prostate cancer. (This being the case my sons should have the healthiest prostates south of Spitzbergen.) Cashews, like most nuts, are best eaten unsalted and raw while the oil is fresh. These nuts are loaded in mono-unsaturated fats, which is good fat. If “good fat” makes as much sense as “slumber party” or “cat owner,” realize that, like good cholesterol, unsaturated fat acts biochemically to reduce the risk of cancers and coronaries.

WALNUTS: Rich in omega 3 fatty acids, walnuts are beneficial in lowering cholesterol. They are also rich in arginine, an amino acid important in the synthesis of nitric oxide, which helps relax tense blood vessels.

PISTACHIOS: These nuts have been known to cause an unfortunate disease known in the medical field as Pistachio nail. Wrestling vigorously to get at a pistachio may cause scrapes under the tender thumbnail skin, which when further irritated with salt will cause its victim to insert the injured thumb deep into the mouth. Sucking vigorously at the thumb, the victim is often seen simultaneously sifting through the bag for easier pistachios.

PEANUTS: Peanuts are not your normal nut. They are legumes. But as we can salt them and roast them let’s consider them nuts. The average child will eat 1,500 peanut butter sandwiches by the time they graduate from high school. This is not necessarily bad as peanuts are high in fiber, niacin and a powerful antioxidant called reservatol, the same flavenol that gives red wine its reputation as a protector of hearts. Same benefit, less hangover at recess.

So as I sit here with my bag of filberts and salt, my everlasting-prostate sons are fully sated. While a corn doodle or other empty carb snack leaves the snacker hungry again in 30 minutes, a handful of nuts satisfies hunger pangs for several hours. Nut snackers actually eat less, lose weight and have less diabetes. Satisfying, fat, tasty and highly nut----ricious.

Listen live or call in to Dr Dave on his fun yet informative radio show, Wisequacks, heard each Sunday at 2 p.m. at www.cknw.com.