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Go a Little Nuts at Holiday Parties This Year

Go a Little Nuts at Holiday Parties This Year

Whether you're a health nut or just a nut lover, you've probably heard that these hard-shelled seeds help keep your weight and cholesterol down, cancer at bay and your heart, well, hardy. But do you know your filberts from your macadamias, your walnuts from your almonds—healthwise, that is? Just in time for all those nut bowls and party platters, here are the specific benefits of each. Think small handfuls, though, not mindless munching. As nutritious as they are, nuts pack 160 to 200 calories per ounce!

1. Coping with holiday stress? Reach for the almonds. Crunching down 24 of them will give you 35 percent of your daily value of vitamin E, which is quickly depleted when you're under pressure. (Eat 'em with the skin on to get the biggest dose!) You'll also score some calcium, magnesium and riboflavin.

2. Need an excuse to go for the macadamia nuts? They win the prize for having the most monounsaturated fats—the good ones, which lower bad LDL cholesterol. Just one ounce (10 to 12 of these creamy white treats) has 17 grams of the heart-healthy stuff. Plus, they're a good source of thiamin, a B vitamin that helps keep your muscles, nerves and GI system humming.

3. Not crazy about brazil nuts? Eat one anyway. That's all it takes—one a day—to completely meet your body's need for the antioxidant mineral selenium. You'll also be munching down some complete protein (brazil nuts have all the essential amino acids in one neat package) and zinc while minimizing its one drawback: saturated fat (5 grams in 6 to 8 of these big nuts).

4. What's with the buzz around walnuts? Omega-3 fatty acids is what. You can meet your daily value for these hard-to-get health protectors in about 14 halves (1 ounce). Walnuts are also stuffed with disease-fighting antioxidants: In a study of nearly 100 plant foods, they ranked #2 in antioxidant content (rosehips—hardly party fare—came in first).

5. Hunt out the filberts—aka hazelnuts. These slightly smoky, buttery nuts are packed with tryptophan; 20 percent of the RDA is in every ounce (about 20 hazelnuts).

6. Peanuts? Okay, smarty pants, you're right: Peanuts aren't really nuts. They're legumes (bio-cousins to peas, lentils and beans). Never mind. They're rich in three key B vitamins—folate, niacin and riboflavin—so you can lose the guilt at happy hour. And ounce for ounce, they pack the same protein punch as beef (7 grams), minus the saturated fat. Wow.

Who would think you could leave a party healthier than you came. But it could happen, if you're nuts about most nuts. 

Here are a few ways to healthy-up three popular party dips.

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