Are You Nuts?

By Lindsey Johnson

Nuts are a common part of the American diet. As a snack, a salad topping or mixed into your favorite dessert, nuts are everywhere. What are the benefits of eating nuts and why are some people allergic?

HEALTH BENEFITS

Peanuts and tree nuts are actually different types of food. Peanuts are a legume like peas and beans while tree nuts are actually considered a nut. However, peanuts and tree nuts share similar taste and texture as well as similar health benefits. Nuts are full of nutrients, protein, antioxidants and are high in fiber. According to Healthline, regular consumption of nuts can assist in weight loss and weight maintenance, help lower cholesterol and triglycerides, assist in metabolic syndrome and diabetes control, reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.

MORE IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER

Now that you know the many benefits of nuts, it is not an open invitation to sit with your spoon in the peanut butter jar! While nuts have amazing heart healthy benefits, they are also high in fat and calories. The American Heart Association recommends eating 1.5 ounces or one-quarter cup of unsalted nuts four times per week. This is approximately a handful of nuts or two tablespoons of nut butter.

NUT ALLERGIES

Some people are allergic to the proteins contained in nuts and their body attacks in a similar way it does to invasive germs. Because of their different nutrition profiles, those with allergies to peanuts may not necessarily have allergies to tree nuts and vice versa. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) reports that between 25-40% of individuals who are allergic to peanuts also react to at least one tree nut. Tree nut allergies may be isolated to a single nut but many allergists recommend avoiding all tree nuts. Most peanut and tree nut allergies last a lifetime.

Peanut and tree nut allergies are among the most likely to cause anaphylaxis, which can lead to difficulty breathing, low pulse and death. Because nut allergies can be so severe, it is important for allergy sufferers to carefully monitor the foods and products they use. Most tree nut allergy sufferers can safely eat coconut and nutmeg, as neither of these are true nuts. Nuts may be hidden in food dishes as well as beauty products such as oils and lotions. Allergy sufferers must be careful to read all labels about product ingredients and potential cross-contamination. Many of those who suffer from allergies must keep an antihistamine such as Benadryl and an epinephrine shot such as an EpiPen with them at all times in case of accidental ingestion.

Depending on your body’s tolerances, nuts can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Peanuts and tree nuts are a powerhouse of nutrition that can be consumed regularly in small amounts. Those with allergies must exercise caution to avoid nuts and nut products to minimize risk of reaction.

Most Common Tree Nuts:
Almonds
Cashews
Pistachios
Walnuts
Pecans
Pine Nuts
Hazelnuts
Macadamia Nuts
Brazil Nuts

Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction:
– Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting
– Diarrhea
– Tightness in throat, difficulty swallowing
– Itching of the eyes, throat, mouth or other area
– Nasal congestion
– Shortness of breath
– Hives
– Swelling
– Dizziness or confusion
– Anaphylaxis, which can cause difficult breathing and send body into shock

*If you experience any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

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