Dieters used to shun that little bowl of salted and mixed nuts at parties — too fattening, they'd say. But nuts have moved beyond the cocktail crowd. They're an economical source of protein being used in every course of the meal for all kinds of eaters: as flour for the gluten-averse, milk for the lactose-intolerant and even as a snack for people watching their fat intake.

Only a few decades ago, many doctors and nutritionists warned that nuts should be eaten on special occasions and even then only sparingly. Nuts were grouped with high-fat snacks such as potato chips and crackers in the era of low-fat diets in the 1980s, explained Dr. David Heber, director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition. The high-calorie content of fat in nuts motivated dieters to avoid them. But since that time, a more balanced view of how to eat has emerged.

For more, see: Why more people are going nuts for nuts