Nutty for Nuts



Almond Orange-Ginger Dressing

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto


How often do you crave a food that is is good for you?  Lucky  me – I love nuts.

I inherited this passion from my father.  A little bowl of Spanish red-skinned peanuts appeared every evening at cocktail hour along with a martini, Manhattan or summertime gin and tonic.  They probably prolonged his life by helping him stop smoking.  His “quit story” attributes success to a can of peanuts at his desk which he reached into whenever he craved a smoke.

There’s more to nuts’ good-health story than my personal anecdote. The headline “Daily Handful of Nuts Linked to Lower Mortality Risk” grabbed my attention in the latest Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter (References 1,2).  The article notes research showing that people who ate nuts regularly were less likely to die from all causes, including heart disease, and cancer, than people who don’t eat nuts.  As the frequency of eating nuts went up, mortality went down.

Weight watchers are often warned to be wary of nuts due to their high calorie content. Research suggests the opposite – people who eat nuts frequently are generally leaner, just like my slender dad.  There is evidence that not all of the calories in nuts, about 160 to 200 per ounce, are digested. The Almond Board website (Reference 3) cites a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showing that almonds have 129 calories per ounce (about 23 nuts), 20% fewer calories than the stated 160 calories.

All nuts are a rich source of healthful unsaturated fats, protein, dietary fiber and a various other nutrients.  Healthy Nuts Go Nuts (Reference 4) features a chart comparing the nutrient content in different nuts and summarizes research showing beneficial effects of nut consumption in weight management,  the prevention of type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The Dietary Guidelines 2010 categorizes nuts in the protein food group and equates 1/2 ounce of nuts or 1 tablespoon of nut butter with 1 ounce of meat.

My freezer always has a supply of peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, cashews and almonds.  My recent kitchen-play resulted in this Almond Orange-Ginger Dressing made with almond butter, which you can find in jars or sometimes in bulk, freshly ground.  I use it to dress a “Chinese Chicken Salad” entrée or as a dip.  Adding supremes of navel or blood oranges, in season now, add a healthy glow to a salad made with your favorite winter greens and chopped roasted almonds for crunch.

If you want even more crunch, make a batch of Crispy Wonton Strips to toss with the other goodies.  (Recipe Follows)


Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Almond Ginger-Orange Salad Dressing (or Dip)


Try the dressing with a hearty “Chinese Chicken Salad” entrée with slivered Nappa or purple cabbage, arugula or baby kale, romaine, sliced green onions, grated carrot and supremes of fresh blood or navel oranges or tangerine segments.  For crunch add chopped toasted natural almonds (with the skin).  Meatless Monday? Use tofu cubes, browned in a little oil, instead of chicken. For dipping, accompany with sliced jicama, radishes, apple slices, pineapple spears and carrot sticks. 

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto


1/2 cup raw almond butter

1/3 cup fresh orange or tangerine juice

2 tablespoons lime juice or rice vinegar

1 to 2 tablespoons honey or agave syrup

1 tablespoon sodium-reduced soy sauce

4 teaspoons peeled, grated ginger

1 teaspoon chili oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon orange or tangerine zest

Salt or additional soy sauce and freshly ground black pepper, to taste if needed

Combine almond butter, orange juice, lime juice, honey, soy sauce, ginger, chili oil, sesame oil, mustard and orange zest in electric blender container; whirl until smooth, scraping down sides of container once or twice.  Taste and add additional soy sauce, salt or other seasonings to taste.  For a thinner dressing, stir in additional orange juice.  Chill dressing for 1 hour to allow flavors to meld or until serving time.   Makes 1 scant cup.

Crispy Wonton Strips: Preheat oven to 375ºF. Cut 12 wonton wrappers into thin (1/4-inch) strips. Place in bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Spread on baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until crisp and golden. Cool.

1. Daily Handful of Nuts Linked to Lower Mortality Risk. Tufts University Health  & Nutrition Letter March 2014. Vol 32, No. 1.

2. Go Nuts. Nutrition Action Healthletter, January / February 2014. P. 8.

 3. Weight Management, the Skinny on Fat.

  4. University of Michigan Health System, Patient Food and Nutrition Services• Healthy Eating Tip of the Month• February 2011Healthy Nuts Go Nuts

 © 2014Lorelle Del Matto

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.


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