March is National Nutrition Month: Eat walnuts and drink wine for good health

by Jill Fleming, MS, RD/LD, Veterans Memorial Hospital

Did you know that by adding a few specific foods to your diet, you can lose weight, improve your memory and reduce your risk of heart disease? The good news is that these foods actually taste good too. They are nuts, purple berries and red grapes.
When choosing nuts, the best option is raw nuts.  These are the nuts that you will find in the baking isle of your grocery store.  When you look at the ingredient list, there will only be one item listed, such as:  almonds or walnuts. All nuts are good for you, but walnuts are one of the best nuts to choose to improve your health.
Since nuts are a good source of monounsaturated fats, they have been found to help decrease fat accumulation around the abdomen and lower LDL cholesterol, which will decrease your risk for heart disease. Many nuts are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help your heart by preventing dangerous heart rhythms that may lead to a heart attack.
Studies show that daily nut consumption can also help prevent dementia and reduce your cancer risk. Since nuts are also a good source of magnesium, eating them can help reduce PMS symptoms and will help you relax to sleep better at night.
To make nuts easier to chew and digest, you will want to soak your raw nuts.  Soaking the nuts will neutralize enzyme-inhibitors to help your body absorb more of the vitamins found within the nuts. Nuts or seeds should be soaked in enough water to cover them, as they will plump up and absorb some of the water.  Only soak the number of nuts you will be able to eat in the next few days, as the nuts or seeds will now have the ability to sprout.
A serving size of nuts is one ounce. When you are talking about a larger nut, such as a Brazil nut, it only takes six nuts to reach one ounce. With almonds, you will get to eat more less 20 almonds for a one-ounce serving.
Purple berries, red grapes, 100% grape juice and red wine are all good sources of the antioxidant Resveratrol and many other flavonoids.  Resveratrol helps to increase blood flow to all extremities and to the brain. These foods are anti-inflammatory, improve memory, raise your good (HDL) cholesterol and decrease the formation of blood clots. The antioxidants in these foods will bind to cancer-causing free radicals to help decrease your risk of getting cancer.
Consuming at least a half cup of purple, blue or red berries or grapes daily will be enough to enjoy the noticeable improvement in your health. If you would prefer, you can drink these same foods by choosing 100% grape juice or red wine.  You will want to be sure to be moderate in your use of wine with a limit of five ounces for a woman and up to 10 ounces for a man.
When you start adding more healthy foods to your diet, you will naturally be consuming fewer of the less-healthy foods. The key is to consume just one or two servings of nuts, red grapes or wine daily. You will be improving your health, decreasing your waistline and enjoying good tasting foods at the same time.
For more information, please call the dietitians at Veterans Memorial Hospital in Waukon at 563-568-3411.