King, J.C., J. Blumberg, L. Ingwersen, M. Jenab, K.L. Tucker, 2008. Tree nuts and peanuts as components of a healthy diet. J. Nutr. 138: 1736S-1740S.
Nuts have been part of the diet for thousands of years. In 2003, a Qualified Health Claim was approved, stating that eating 1.5 oz (42 g) of nuts per day may reduce the risk of heart disease. Usual intakes fall short of this recommendation. About one-third of Americans report consuming nuts (tree nuts or peanuts) on any one day. Seven percent of Europeans report eating nuts, but the amount eaten by European nut consumers (31 g/d) is larger than that of Americans (21 g/d). Nuts are an excellent source of vitamin E and magnesium. Individuals consuming nuts also have higher intakes of folate, β-carotene, vitamin K, lutein+zeaxanthin, phosphorus, copper, selenium, potassium, and zinc per 1000 kcal. Regular nut consumption increases total energy intake by 250 kcal/d (1.05 MJ/d), but the body weight of nut consumers is not greater than that of nonconsumers. Nuts are an excellent source of phytochemicals (phytosterols, phenolic acids, flavonoids, stilbenes, and carotenoids). The total phenolic constituents probably contribute to the total antioxidant capacity of nuts, which is comparable to broccoli and tomatoes. To improve guidance on the use of nuts in the diet, the position of nuts in typical food patterns needs to be addressed. The 2005 MyPyramid includes nuts in the meat and beans group. Yet, nuts are rarely consumed as meat substitutes. Because 60% of the nuts consumed in the U.S. are eaten as snacks, emphasizing their use as a healthy snack may be more effective than inclusion within a food group.