Mixed nuts

Crack the secret of finding the healthiest nut mixes.
 
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01.Introduction

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Nuts are full of important nutrients that play a role in protecting against cardiovascular disease and help keep waistlines trim. They may even help control blood glucose levels in diabetics and non-diabetics. CHOICE looked on supermarket shelves and in health food stores to see which unsalted mixed nuts provide the best variety for money. See our table of results to see how the different packets stacked up.

Peanut confusion

Did you know peanuts are not nuts at all? They actually belong to the legume family, with beans and peas. Unlike “real” nuts, which grow on trees, peanuts grow under the ground. Yet they look like and have a nutritional composition akin to tree nuts – and they’re cheaper, too, so they dominate the budget mixed nut varieties.

Peanuts have a bad reputation for being high in fat and bad for health, but this is mainly due to our appetite for the roasted and salted variety. As a raw product, peanuts are high in protein and fibre and contain heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, vitamin E, magnesium and niacin.

Added fat

While investigating brands of mixed nuts, we also looked into the types of oils most manufacturers use for roasting. It’s not always obvious when the nuts contain added oil. The word ‘roasted’ or the term ‘oven baked’ could spell the presence of added oil in the form of ‘vegetable oil’. Under the food standards code a manufacturer is not obliged to identify the specific oil used. The good news is that the oil used by most of the manufacturers we looked at is from a healthy vegetable source, such as sunflower oil. The bad news is that there is no guarantee that a nastier oil isn’t used in other products.

Added salt

Although we excluded salted varieties of nuts from our review, they dominate the market, often chosen for flavour. But the salt in these products offsets some of the heart health benefits derived from the nuts themselves. A high salt diet is strongly linked with increased blood pressure and hypertension – a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Some brands of salted nuts contain as much as 780mg of sodium per 100g, a far cry from what is considered low salt (less than 120mg sodium per 100g). If you’re interested in salted nut varieties, check the back of the pack, aim for less than 400mg per 100g and limit your intake.

Marketing

Many products now display health and nutrient claims on the packaging, which can be a great education tool, but watch out – you could be paying more for no additional benefits. The health claims on the pack do not mean you are getting a more nutritious nut, they are just exploiting the natural properties of the product. For example the NuVit Protein Mix does not contain significantly more protein than any other nut mix, but you will pay more for the product. Compare the prices and look beyond the packaging.

 
 

 

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