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Not Eating Enough Tree Nuts Could Contribute to Vitamin Deficiencies

Tree nuts such as almonds, cashews, pecans and pistachios have been found to decrease the risk of heart disease and diabetes, according to a study published in the September 2008 issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

Tree nuts are known to be a rich source of magnesium and vitamin E and have been a part of our diet for thousands of years, in fact, records of eating pistachios have been found dating all the way back to the stone age. According to data from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) about a third of Americans today report eating tree nuts and of that third the average daily consumption is about half of the recommended 1.5 oz.

That may be one reason why 90% of Americans don't consume the recommended amount of vitamin E and fall short of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for magnesium as well. Vitamin E is an important antioxidant which has been shown to protect immune function as well as prevent oxidative damage to cells. Magnesium is an equally important mineral and low intakes can result in risk of osteoporosis, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease.

In addition to being a rich source of magnesium and vitamin E tree nuts also provide fiber, protein and beneficial phytochemicals. Numerous studies have associated phytochemicals, found naturally in plants, with antioxidant, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties.

In order to get more nuts in our diet it is important to look at the role they play. Currently in the food pyramid, nuts are included in the meat group but very few people actually consume tree nuts as a substitute for meat. With 60% of nuts in the United States consumed in the form of snack food, it may be advantageous to replace unhealthy snacks such as chips and candy bars with raw, unsalted tree nuts.
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