I love nuts! I could snack on them all day long — but I mostly do restrain myself because too much of a good thing is, well, too much.

But keeping a sensible eye on how many I eat doesn’t stop me in the least from being crazy about all the different varieties of nuts, each possessing their own unique taste and texture. Simply put, all nuts are not created equally. Each is as different from the other as is all the different kinds of fruit we have in this world.

Everything else aside, nuts can also differ in the amount of fat they contain. Don’t get me wrong; most nuts are good for you because they belong in the category of foods that provide us with healthy fats. But that can be tricky if you don’t take it a step further– just because most nuts contain healthy fats, it doesn’t mean we (especially those of us who are advocates of good nutrition) should eat as many as we want. Like I said before, “too much of a good thing can be too much!” The fact is, one cup of dry roasted, mixed nuts are 23 PointsPlus ® values on the Weight Watchers program (or about 640 calories for those counting calories).

But in moderation, nuts can do a body good. They are high in calcium, folic acid, magnesium, potassium, vitamin E and fiber. Some studies say that a daily portion of just 1 oz (which is a lot less than the whole jar that my husband eats in one sitting) may reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 10%. I use them as an ingredient in sweet and savory dishes (after I lightly road them to bring out all the flavor) and as a healthy snack. The nuts highest in monounsaturated fat (the good type of fat) are: almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, macademia nuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts. You might find this interesting: Botanically speaking, some foods we know as nuts are actually seeds (such as Brazil nuts) or legume (like the peanuts).

I always buy unshelled nuts in bulk, choosing those that are heavy for their size and that have solid shells, without cracks and holes. When I choose shelled nuts, I look at how plump and crisp they are and make sure they are more-or-less uniform in size and color. Buy and consume nuts while they are fresh! Because of their high fat content, rancidity is always a concern. Rancid nutmeats can make you sick and ruin whatever food they flavor. To be sure nuts are fresh, buy them from a supplier with rapid turnover and when you get home, measure them out in individual, single-serving airtight bag and store them in a cool or freezing place. This is what I do for Florine and my family. Then, whoever wants nuts, can reach in the freezer, pull out a single-size portion and enjoy without going overboard or becoming sick. Shelled nuts can be refrigerated in this manner up to 4 months, or frozen up to 6 months. As a general rule, unshelled nuts, will keep about twice as long as shelled ones because their skin offers them more protection.

When it comes to using nuts in recipes, you don’t have to use the variety of nut the recipe calls for. Like all recipes, feel free to swap ingredients. Use what tastes good to you or the kind you have on hand.  Remember, recipes are only “guidelines.” I encourage personalizing recipes to your own taste as long as you know the PointsPlus values of the finished creation. Remember, 1 ounce of nuts (Almonds, for example, – about 23 pieces) equals 5 PPVs. One Brazil nut on the other hand is 1 PPV because those are big nuts! Know what you’re including in your recipes and meals, how much you’re eating and what the PPV is.  Nuttin’ nutty about that!