Good News About Nuts-and a Warning for Bakers

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Smart strategies for a healthy holiday season

Appetizers, hors d’oeuvres, and snacks-oh my! Temptations abound during the holiday season, but you may not need to steer clear of the nuts. Consumption of nuts may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature death, according to an analysis of 20 studies, published in the journal BMC Medicine. It linked consumption of just one ounce of nuts (tree nuts or peanuts) a day to a 29 percent decreased risk of heart disease and a 15 percent lower cancer risk. Moreover, compared to people who ate few or no nuts, those eating an ounce a day had 22 percent lower all-cause mortality rates, with the biggest drops seen for deaths from infectious diseases, respiratory illnesses, and diabetes. Nut intakes greater than an ounce a day brought modest additional decreases in risk.

Here’s about how many nuts you get per ounce: 23 almonds, 6 Brazil nuts, 18 medium cashews, 21 hazelnuts, 19 pecan halves, 49 pistachios, 14 walnut halves, 35 peanuts.

Despite the good news, don’t forget that nuts are calorie-dense foods that you should eat in moderation.

And if baking is on your agenda for the holidays, be sure to heed this warning from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Don’t eat raw dough or let children lick batter from a bowl-the flour may be contaminated by a dangerous strain of E. coli bacteria. A few years ago, raw dough sickened dozens of people in more than 20 states, an outbreak traced to flour made by General Mills in Kansas City.

You may think that the risk comes from the raw eggs that dough often contains, but wheat can be contaminated by animal waste in the field. Cooking kills the bacteria.

The FDA also advises home cooks to wash their hands and utensils after handling raw dough.