Palm Beach Gardens Fire Rescue
Health & Wellness

Nuts for Hearth Health

Firefighting is a calling, but there is no denying that the physical and mental stress of the job can impact your heart. Firefighters have some of the highest rates of heart disease and sudden cardiac death. While many aspects of the job are out of your control (sleep, chemical exposures), changing your eating habits can reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

One simple way to protect your ticker is to add more nuts, seeds, and legumes to your diet. These crunchy snacks pack a punch with a variety of heart protective fats. Nuts, seeds and legumes are high in unsaturated fats and low in saturated fat. Nuts and seeds are also a good source of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.

A Heart-y Snack

Research suggests that eating 1.5 ounces of nuts per day may reduce the risk of heart disease. The fiber, vitamins, and minerals found in nuts can reduce inflammation related to heart disease. Walnuts and flaxseed are particularly high in omega-3 fatty acids, a type of unsaturated fat. A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids can help lower blood pressure, reduce LDL cholesterol and reduce risk of developing blood clots. For more on omega-3s, check out “Omega 3’s and Your Heart”.

Get Nuts in the Kitchen

Nuts and seeds are versatile cooking components. They can be purchased whole, chopped or slivered, from bulk bins or in re-sealable bags and cans. If you buy in bulk, keep nuts and seeds fresher at home by storing them in the refrigerator.

Did you know that nuts and seeds come in a variety of forms – including oils, flours, and butters? Here are a few ways to get really nuts in the kitchen:

  • Use nut-based or sesame oil to stir-fry vegetables or make a salad dressing.
  • Try nut and legume flour as an alternative to traditional flours for baked goods. If you must avoid gluten for medical reasons, remember that nuts and legumes (and their flours) do not contain gluten.
  • Throw your favorite legume (beans or lentils) into chili, soup, or stew.
  • Blend hazelnuts into pesto to add flavor and save on expensive pine nuts.
  • Enjoy nut butter on toast, crackers, or a piece of fruit.
  • Use finely chopped nuts as a coating on chicken or pork

Remember, a handful NOT a can full!

Nuts and seeds are delicious and nutritious, so it’s tempting to eat the whole can! Remember to keep your serving sizes in check, as nuts are high in calories. One ounce of nuts or seeds or two tablespoons of nut butter is an appropriate serving size. Quick tip – a palm full of nuts is roughly equal to one ounce.

If your goal is fat loss, you may need to measure out nuts or peanut butter servings. Consider purchasing 100-calorie packs or pre-portioned peanut butter cups or packets to save time.

For recipe ideas that include nuts, check out the Crockpot Thai Peanut Chicken, Cranberry Walnut Kale Salad, Reeses Overnight Oats, or the Strawberry Spinach Salad.

Megan Lautz, MS, RD, CSCS, TSAC-F 

Megan is a Registered Dietitian and coach who specializes in firefighter nutrition. Megan’s mission is to help firefighters perform better, recover faster, and enjoy long, healthy retirements. Megan is the owner of RescueRD LLC, which provides nutrition seminars and coaching for tactical athletes across the country. Check out @Rescue.RD on Facebook and Instagram.

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