Go Nuts for Nuts

Feed store owner Jerry Foote of Seminole, Texas, holds a handful of peanuts. (Brad Farris / Associated Press / December 16, 1997)

Feed store owner Jerry Foote of Seminole, Texas, holds a handful of peanuts. (Brad Farris / Associated Press / December 16, 1997)

Go nuts for nuts—they may help you live longer

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Eating nuts may help you live longer — and your best bet for a long life is to munch on them regularly, according to a Harvard University study published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the largest study of its kind, funded by the U.S. International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation and the U.S. National Institutes of Health, researchers followed 120,000 people for 30 years. They found the people who ate nuts regularly were less likely to die during the study.

Compared with people who didn’t eat any nuts, people who ate a daily portion of nuts reduced the death rate by 20% over the course of the study. People who ate four portions of nuts a week were recorded as having a 13% reduction in the death rate.

Even the people who ate nuts once a week were 11% less likely to die during the study.

“The most obvious benefit was a reduction of 29% in deaths from heart disease, but we also saw a significant reduction — 11% — in the risk of dying from cancer,” said the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Charles Fuchs of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

The study concluded that people who eat nuts are more likely to have healthy lifestyles, but that the nuts themselves are also beneficial.

“Nuts are a tiny food that pack a powerful nutrition punch,” said Rachel Berman, health content manager at About.com and a registered dietitian. “They are rich in heart healthy monosaturated fats, fiber, protein and disease-fighting antioxidants like vitamin E.”

Berman said that having nutrient-dense nuts as a snack can help keep you fuller longer, and she recommended incorporating one ounce per day into your diet.

She suggested pistachios, which are 49 nuts per 160-calorie serving; almonds, which are 22 nuts per serving; and walnuts, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and have been shown in studies to help reduce the risk and symptoms of many conditions including heart disease, arthritis and depression.

Willmar: Gurley’s Foods are sold coast to coast

Tom Taunton, vice president and general manager of Gurley's Foods in Willmar, shows off an assortment of the roasted nuts that have helped put the company's name on products that can be found coast to coast across the United States. (Tribune photo by Anne Polta)

Tom Taunton, vice president and general manager of Gurley’s Foods in Willmar, shows off an assortment of the roasted nuts that have helped put the company’s name on products that can be found coast to coast across the United States. (Tribune photo by Anne Polta)

The plant manager at Gurley’s Foods came back from a recent trip to North Carolina with a story for his boss, Tom Taunton.

The employee was on the road and needed to make a pit stop for water and refreshments, Taunton recalled. “He walked into a convenience store and there was an eight-foot section of Gurley’s candy and nuts and trail mix.”

From the two Gurley’s plants in Willmar, millions of pounds of nuts and candy make their way each year to stores and tables across the United States.

The company no longer makes the cookies that were one of its mainstays when it opened in 1953. But the sweet, the salty and the crunchy continue to be big business for Gurley’s, from the dozens of varieties of candy it bags and labels to the in-shell peanuts and sunflower seeds that are air-roasted via proprietary equipment and techniques.

“We sell them coast to coast,” said Taunton, vice president and general manager. “Our biggest market is the Midwest. The rest is interstate.”

Many people probably “have no idea” of the variety or volume of products that flow through Gurley’s each year, he said.

Take the standard peanut. Gurley’s roasts more than 6 million pounds a year of in-shell peanuts for sale and distribution. If you laid them end to end, they would reach from one coast to the other — not just once but five times, Taunton said.

Repackaging and relabeling of candy makes up a significant portion of the volume at Gurley's Foods. The candy packaging operation takes place in what used to be the Gurley's cookie factory. (Tribune photo by Anne Polta)

Repackaging and relabeling of candy makes up a significant portion of the volume at Gurley’s Foods. The candy packaging operation takes place in what used to be the Gurley’s cookie factory. (Tribune photo by Anne Polta)

Then there’s the almond bark. The company sells more than 40 semi-tractor tankers of its almond bark during October, November and December each year. That equates to 1.6 million pounds of candy coating for homemade candy and coated pretzels.

At the candy rebagging plant, where cookies once were once baked by the hundreds in commercial ovens, Gurley’s now packages more than 50 varieties of candy under its own label, as well as private labels.

Founded as a locally owned company, Gurley’s has been through a handful of ownership changes over the past 30 years. Since May 2010 it has been owned by Hearthside Food Solutions, a contract baker and one of the largest independent bakeries in the U.S.

But from the roasted almonds and cashews to the containers of trail mix and packages of candy corn, much of the Gurley’s process remains in the hands of its 71 local employees.

Quality is a constant priority, Taunton said. “We know you can’t just have the lowest price point out there. We have to have national-brand quality on everything we do and put our best foot forward. In most cases our products will look and taste better than our competitors.’ It’s very important that we try to maintain that and excel.”

It starts with the raw products as they arrive by the truckload at the plant: cashews from Brazil or Vietnam, walnuts from California, pecans and peanuts from the American South, dried fruits and candy from dozens of suppliers.

Because nuts and dried fruit vary so much among regions, growers and even growing seasons, they must be extensively evaluated and tasted before going into a Gurley’s product, Taunton said. “It’s amazing the differences in a dried raisin.”

The company is especially proud of its nut-roasting operation, which accounts for about two-thirds of its annual revenue.

Peanuts in the shell are air-roasted, using proprietary equipment that suspends them in a vibrating stream of hot air to produce a clean, fresh-roasted flavor that Taunton said can’t be duplicated by continuous roasting.

Peanuts are the company’s “No. 1 item,” he said. “It’s a very unique roasting that our customers have grown fond of. We’ve built quite a brand with our peanuts. We get letters every day from people.”

The emergence of nuts as a good nutritional source of beneficial fats has led Gurley’s in recent years into new product lines such as roasted almonds and trail mixes packed with dried fruits or nuts.

“We’ve seen a huge growth in our trail mixes and heart-healthy products,” Taunton said.

The impact has been global, and is behind one of the company’s biggest challenges for the future: the supply, demand and cost of raw nuts.

“The health trend with nuts has taken off so much that it’s created a shortage of nuts,” Taunton explained. “Some of them have tripled in price. With pecans, walnuts and almonds, there’s a huge domestic demand.”

Middle-class consumers in China also have become a significant new market for nuts, he said. “They’ve purchased major portions of what we can grow.”

Growers are trying to catch up, but it can take five to six years for nut trees to become productive, and in the meantime prices for the consumer will likely keep rising, Taunton said. “That’s a challenge. That’s for all the nut companies.”

He believes Gurley’s will weather it, however.

“I think our advantage here is we have one-on-one relationships with our employees and our low overhead here,” he said. “We can produce more efficiently and can come in under the major price points. That is helpful. We just need to ensure that we stay that way.”

Health Benefits of Almonds

“Almonds are considered to be one of the earliest domesticated tree nuts, and one of the most prized snacks in the world.”

Packed with a variety of vitamins and minerals, it is easy to see why the almond is present on almost every continent and the health benefits of this little nut have long been touted by experts.

Almonds are considered to be one of the earliest domesticated tree nuts, and one of the most prized snacks in the world.  Packed with a variety of vitamins and minerals, it is easy to see why the almond is present on almost every continent and the health benefits of this little nut have long been touted by experts.

The almond contains about 26 percent carbohydrates, 12 percent of which are dietary fiber.  About 20 percent of a raw almond is made up of high-quality protein, containing essential amino acids.

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An ounce of almonds, which equates to about 25 almonds, contains 12 percent of our necessary daily protein. They are a rich source of vitamin E, B vitamins, essential minerals – like calcium, magnesium and potassium – and healthy fat.

Typical of nuts and seeds, almonds also contain phytosterols, associated with lowering cholesterol.  But how exactly are these vitamins helping?

Let’s take a closer look:

Vitamin E

Almonds are one of the best sources of alpha-tocopherol —the form of vitamin E that’s best absorbed by your body.  This is important to your muscles because it can help prevent free-radical damage after workouts or muscle strain and damage.  The less free-radical damage, the faster your muscles can recover.  The antioxidant benefit of vitamin E also helps defend against sun damage, and has been associated with good heart health. And almonds can be considered “brain food.” Healthy levels of vitamin E have been shown to prevent cognitive decline, boost alertness and preserve memory longer.

B Vitamins

Almonds contain about 17 percent of your daily intake of B2, which helps convert food to energy for the body. Because these vitamins are essential for energy production, they have a positive effect on athletic training, performance and strength. The B vitamins also contribute to healthy skin, hair, eyes and liver.

Monounsaturated Fat

This fat is dubbed the “healthy fat” because it helps decrease high levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol.  By decreasing cholesterol, those who eat almonds can decrease their risk of heart disease and heart attack.  This makes almonds a heart-healthy snack!

Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium

Almonds provide these minerals which are essential in promoting strong, healthy bones and preventing bone disease like osteoporosis.

A lot of the vitamins and minerals found in almonds work together, and that’s when we see the real benefits that have given almonds their great reputation.

One combination is vitamin E, calcium, magnesium and potassium – together, these are essential to the production of testosterone, which is especially beneficial to men over the age of 30, who may experience a decline in levels of the hormone.  And combining vitamins E, B and magnesium can bolster your immune system when you are sick or stressed.

Is there anything the almond can’t do?  Despite almonds being nutritional powerhouses, they are relatively high in calories.  For this reason, people trying to cut back on calories and lose weight often shy away from this snack.  Research, however, has shown otherwise.

In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutritionreviewing 31 studies about eating nuts, it was found that adults who incorporated nuts into their diets, and replaced other foods with them, lost more weight and reduced their waist sizes.

Remember to check with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.

Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel’s Medical A-Team and the chief medical correspondent for am970 in New York City. Learn more at roboticoncology.com. Visit Dr. Samadi’s blog at SamadiMD.com. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter and Facebook.

Link Source Fox News

The Top 10 ways to enjoy Nuts!

  1. Trail Mix, Naturally!
    Making a trail mix is a healthy and easy way to have a snack on the go Making a trail mix is a healthy and easy way to have a snack on the go! Just mix in peanuts (or your favorite nuts) with a variety of dried fruit (such as cranberries, raisins, pineapple, bananas or apricots), dark chocolate bits and whole-grain oat squares. Separate the mix into small plastic bags and you’re ready to go!
  2. Perfect Pate! After soaking walnuts in water for 6-8 hours, chop them up in a food processor along with some parsley, onion, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil for a tasty spread to top whole-wheat crackers or flat-bread.
  3. Wrap Them Up! Combine chopped almonds with tomato, bell pepper, onion, chopped lettuce and cilantro then lightly toss in a vinaigrette dressing. Warm a wheat tortilla and fill with the ingredients. Add some sliced avocado and you’ve got yourself a delicious, healthy lunch.
  4. Nutty Desserts. Hazelnuts have a delicious flavor and aroma that’ll add a whole new element to your cookies or ice cream.
  5. Saucy Sides. Wake up your traditional side dishes! Try this … add some pine nuts to your coleslaw for a different twist on a traditional favorite.
  6. Stir-Up Your Stir-Fry! Make an Asian-inspired stir-fry using chicken, snow peas, peppers, onion and raw, halved cashews. Toss in some mandarin oranges to add color and flavor!
  7. Top Your Salads! Chopped walnuts or almonds add flavor and texture to any salad.
  8. Coat Your Proteins. Dredge your meat or fish in a liquid base first (such as lemon juice or olive oil and melted butter) and then cover it in chopped pecans and spices to make your proteins more exciting!
  9. Add Some Crunch to Your Mornings. Add slivered raw almonds to any of your favorite cereals and enjoy not only the added flavor but enhanced texture as well.
  10. Add to Steamed Vegetables. Toss pecans and steamed green beans in a bowl with olive oil and a seasoning blend such as minced garlic and onion with salt, pepper and dried parsley.

Nut Nutrition

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health found three times as many people trying to lose weight were able to stick to a Mediterranean-style moderate-fat weight loss diet that included…

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health found three times as many people trying to lose weight were able to stick to a Mediterranean-style moderate-fat weight loss diet that included nuts, peanuts and peanut butter versus the traditionally recommended low-fat diet. (International Journal of Obesity.

As long as you control total calories, eating a handful of nuts daily may help prevent weight gain and possibly promote weight loss. The fat, protein and fiber in nuts help you feel full longer, so you may eat less during the day. By helping induce a feeling of satiety, nuts may help people feel less deprived and not like they’re “dieting.” Just limit your portion to a healthy handful.


Women in a Harvard School of Public Health study who reported eating 5 or more 1 ounce servings of nuts/peanuts per week reduced their risk of Type 2 diabetes by almost 30 percent compared to those who rarely or never ate nuts. Women in the study who ate five tablespoons of peanut butter each week reduced their risk for Type 2 diabetes almost 20 percent. (Journal of the American Medical Association.

Nut Nutrition

Some nutrients associated with nuts include magnesium, manganese, protein, fiber, zinc and phosphorus.

A sampling of nuts in the news for their contribution to specific nutrients include:

  • Walnuts. One ounce of walnuts (about 14 shelled walnut halves) is all that is needed to meet the dietary recommendation of the Food Nutrition Board of the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine for omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Almonds. One ounce of almonds (about 20 to 24 shelled whole almonds) provides 35 percent of your daily value for vitamin E. Vitamin E may help promote healthy aging. A study reported in the Journal of the American Association suggests a diet rich in foods containing vitamin E may help protect some people against Alzheimer’s disease. The study also found vitamin E in the form of supplements was not associated with a reduction in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Peanuts. Though often discussed with nuts, peanuts are a legume along with dry beans, peas and lentils. One ounce of roasted peanuts provides about 10 percent of the daily value of folate, a B vitamin recommended to help reduce the incidence of birth defects and lower the risk of heart disease.
  • Peanuts also are an excellent source of niacin, providing about 20 percent of the daily value. As a group, nuts also are important for what they DON’T offer:
  • Cholesterol. Nuts are cholesterol-free.
  • Sodium. Unless salt is added to nuts, they naturally contain, at most, just a trace of sodium.

History of Peanuts

  • The history of peanuts is a journey from South America, to Asia, east across the Atlantic Ocean and back again to North America.
  • Peanut butter was first introduced at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 and became a source of delicious protein during the first two world wars.

The peanut plant probably originated in Peru or Brazil in South America. No fossil records prove this, but people in South America made pottery in the shape of peanuts or decorated jars with peanuts as far back as 3,500 years ago.

European explorers first discovered peanuts in Brazil. As early as 1500 B.C., the Incans of Peru used peanuts as sacrificial offerings and entombed them with their mummies to aid in the spirit life. Tribes in central Brazil also ground peanuts with maize to make a drink.

Peanuts were grown as far north as Mexico when the Spanish began their exploration of the new world. The explorers took peanuts back to Spain, and from there traders and explorers spread them to Asia and Africa. Africans were the first people to introduce peanuts to North America beginning in the 1700s.

Records show that it wasn’t until the early 1800s that peanuts were grown as a commercial crop in the United States. They were first grown in Virginia and used mainly for oil, food and as a cocoa substitute. At this time, peanuts were regarded as a food for livestock and the poor and were considered difficult to grow and harvest.

Peanut production steadily grew the first half of the nineteenth century. Peanuts became prominent after the Civil War when Union soldiers found they liked them and took them home. Both armies subsisted on this food source high in protein.

Their popularity grew in the late 1800s when PT Barnum’s circus wagons traveled across the country and vendors called “hot roasted peanuts!” to the crowds. Soon street vendors began selling roasted peanuts from carts and peanuts also became popular at baseball games. While peanut production rose during this time, peanuts were still harvested by hand, leaving stems and trash in the peanuts.  Thus, poor quality and lack of uniformity kept down the demand for peanuts.

Around 1900, labor-saving equipment was invented for planting, cultivating, harvesting and picking peanuts from the plants, as well as for shelling and cleaning the kernels. With these significant mechanical aids, demand for peanuts grew rapidly, especially for oil, roasted and salted nuts, peanut butter and candy.

In the early 1900s peanuts became a significant agricultural crop when the boll weevil threatened the South’s cotton crop. Following the suggestions of noted scientist Dr. George Washington Carver (link to Carver page), peanuts served as an effective commercial crop and, for a time, rivaled the position of cotton in the South.

What about peanut butter?

There is evidence that ancient South American Inca Indians were the first to grind peanuts to make peanut butter. In the United States, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (of cereal fame) invented a version of peanut butter in 1895. Then it is believed that a St. Louis physician may have developed a version of peanut butter as a protein substitute for his older patients who had poor teeth and couldn’t chew meat. Peanut butter was first introduced at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.

Peanuts and peanut butter became an integral part of the Armed Forces rations in World Wars I and II. It is believed that the U.S. army popularized the peanut butter and jelly sandwich for sustenance during maneuvers in World War II.

Peanuts and Peanut Butter in America Today

Peanuts are the 12th most valuable cash crop grown in the United States with a farm value of over one billion U.S. dollars, according to The American Peanut Council.

Unlike other countries, the prime market for U.S. peanuts is in edible consumption and the marketing and production focus is in that direction.

Peanuts, peanut butter and peanut candy are some of the most popular products in the United States.  Americans eat more than six pounds of peanut products each year, worth more than $2 billion at the retail level.

Peanut butter accounts for about half of the U.S. edible use of peanuts—accounting for $850 million in retail sales each year. It is a popular sandwich spread, for children and adults, because it is both nutritious and economical.

The other half of U.S. consumption is divided equally between snack nuts and confectionery. Peanuts are eaten as snack nuts in many ways: roasted in shell, roasted kernels or in mixed nuts. Snack nuts are often salted, spiced or flavored with a variety of coatings.

Many of the top-selling confectionery products in the U.S. contain peanut and peanut butter. They are most popular in combination with chocolate. Peanuts and peanut butter also are used in a variety of cookies and baked goods. Peanut oil is considered a premium, high quality cooking oil in the U.S., is able to withstand higher cooking temperature than many other oils and does not retain the flavor of foods cooked in it.