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Healthy Amounts of Nuts

By Kathryn Flynn, M.P.H.

Once considered a dieter's worst nightmare due to their high caloric and fat content, nuts are now considered a delicious, healthy food when eaten in moderation. Sometimes, however, it can be confusing to know what a healthy amount of nuts looks like. In just small amounts, nuts pack a nutritional punch, prevent chronic disease and can even help you lose weight.

Serving Size: Nuts

It is often recommended that you consume a handful of nuts each day for your health. However, because each person has different-sized hands, that's not always the most reliable measurement. In more exact terms, one serving size of nuts is 1/4 cup, or 1 oz. This is about 160-200 calories, depending on the type of nut.

Exact Numbers

If you are watching your caloric and fat intake, you might want to be a bit more detailed in your measurement and actually count your healthy serving size. The International Tree Nut Council Research and Education Foundation provides the exact serving size for all nut varieties. Each nut has a range, which is slightly dependent on the unique size and shape of the individual nut: almonds - 20 to 24; Brazil nuts - six to eight; cashews - 16 to 18; hazelnuts - 18 to 20; macadamias - 10 to 12; peanuts - 28; pecans - 18 to 20 halves; pine nuts - 150 to 157; pistachios - 45 to 47; walnuts - 14 halves.

Serving Size: Nut Butters

If you prefer nut butters, you need to realize that they are more heavily concentrated in calories and a little goes a long way. One serving size of any type of nut butter is 2 tbsps.

Nutritious and Delicious

As long as you stick to the serving size, you can reap many health benefits from nuts. Two superstars of the nut family are almonds, which are high in vitamin E and might protect against Alzheimer's disease, and walnuts, which are high in omega 3 fatty acids, improve heart health and reduce inflammation in the body. All nuts contain protein, fiber and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which have been linked to heart health and weight loss.

FDA Recommendations

The Food and Drug Administration recommends that you consume a little more than the regular serving size of nuts, suggesting that 1.5 oz. per day is necessary to reduce your risk of heart disease. This recommendation does not include cashews, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts and pine nuts. Although increasing your serving size of nuts by .5 oz. may help your heart, you need to remember that nuts are still calorically dense. If you are trying to lose weight, you should keep your serving size to 1 oz. most days each week. If you want to increase your consumption to the FDA recommended 1.5 oz., be sure you factor this into your daily caloric intake.

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