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GALVESTON, Texas Checking out of Bucee s on the way back from San Antonio last week, we grabbed a 99-cent pack of hot cashews that festooned the exit counter.

The aroma and appearance were hard to resist. We both shrugged, smiled, and asked, Why not?

Let s face it, nuts have always had a bit of a seedy reputation. Calling someone a nut isn t exactly a compliment. How would you like being called a health nut? The old song about, Nuts, hot nuts, you get them anyway you can! was truly edgy for the 60s.

Why are nuts so consistently hidden away in our favorite desserts and cookies, like they are somehow illegal, furtive and suspect? It somehow reminds me of stashing marijuana in brownies. On airplanes or in fine restaurants, we get little packs of nuts more suitable for a 4-year old s appetite and hands than for an adult.

Even the natural packaging of nuts is tough to crack, like it contains a hidden treasure. We have to work hard on pecans, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts and walnuts, burning many calories just to get at the meat. But it is worth the effort, especially as we learn about the amazing health benefits of nuts.

True, nuts are high in calories and you should eat them by the handful, not the bagful. One handful is about 150 calories but is rich is the healthy fats, the omega-3s, so popular in fish and fish oil supplements. Their delicious nutty flavor couples with the fact that nuts are also chock full of protein, minerals, vitamins and fiber. Seeds have many of the same benefits as tree nuts.

Peanuts, a root crop, and a legume rather than a true nut, offers even more variety on getting nuts as a super food into your diet.

Peanut butter and almond butter without hydrogenated fats or salt are great spreads and a healthy snack on whole grain bread. Laura Scudder s All Natural Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter is one of our favorites.

Click here to read more at the Galveston County Daily News.

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