If you want to whittle your middle, improve your heart health and boost the quality of your diet, go nuts for nuts!
Many weight-conscious consumers think they can’t enjoy nuts due to their high fat and calorie counts. Studies show just the opposite: nut-eaters are actually thinner and have less harmful abdominal fat compared to those who don’t regularly eat them. Snacking on a handful of nuts is one of the best ways to keep hunger in check and calm cravings for carbohydrates.
Here, we crack open the nutritional and health benefits of the 7 most popular snack nuts. (Nutritional information is based on 1 oz dry roasted nuts.)
Nuts per serving: 22
Saturated Fat: 1 gram
Almonds are always one of the nuts that are top-of-mind for health and nutrition. And for good reason. A serving of almonds provides 35% of the vitamin E you need daily—more than any other nut. A serving also has six grams protein and 3 grams fiber per serving.
Numerous studies have reported that almonds help lower harmful LDL-cholesterol levels due to their nutritional profile, including their phytosterol content. Recent research showed that adding 2oz of almonds per day to the diets of individuals with pre-diabetes significantly improved blood sugar responses and blood insulin levels while reducing harmful LDL-cholesterol levels.
Enjoy a handful as is or as part of a trail mix or make some spiced nuts. They’re also wonderful in this Health Nut Almond Oaties. You can also enter to win our California Almond cookbook and nut giveaway.
Nuts per serving: 6
Saturated Fat: 4
Brazil nuts are not only the largest nut (you get less per serving) they have nearly eight times the selenium you need in a day. In fact, they’re considered the number one source of the mineral of all foods.
Selenium is a potent antioxidant that might have anti-cancer properties and may play a role in maintaining a healthy immune system. Brazil nuts are also one of the best sources of copper, phosphorus and manganese but the nut is among the highest in total fat (19 grams) and saturated fat (4 grams), so it’s less heart-smart than other nuts.
Because you only get a few Brazil nuts per serving, they’re best when mixed with dried fruit and other nuts in a trail mix or try a Brazil nut eEnergy or breakfast bar.
Nuts per serving: 18
Saturated Fat: 2.5 grams
Cashews are unique in that they’re one of the best sources of several minerals of all tree nuts including zinc, copper, magnesium, selenium and vitamin K. Cashews have 13 grams total fat and are not a fiber stand-out with just 1 gram per serving. A recent study found that cashews contain several flavonoids and their antioxidant levels are enhanced with roasting.
Nuts per serving: 30
Saturated Fat: 2 grams
Peanuts aren’t nuts botanically (they’re a legume) but nutritionally, we count them as nuts.
Peanuts have 7 grams of filling protein which is more than all other nuts. They also have more B-vitamins than many other tree nuts. They’re also rich in phytosterols, compounds that naturally lower cholesterol as well as resveratrol, the same heart-healthy compound found in red wine.
Peanuts are great in trail mixes, and another energy-boosting option is this Double Peanut Bar made with peanuts.
Nuts per serving: 19 halves
Saturated Fat: 2 grams
Pecans are probably one of the richest tasting nuts because they contain slightly more fat (21 grams) and less protein (3 grams) compared to other nuts but they contain 3 grams of fiber per serving. Pecans are unique in that they contain a form of vitamin E that is particularly beneficial—gamma-tocopherol. Like walnuts, pecans are among the nuts that are highest in antioxidants.
Pecans are great when spiced but I’ve found that cooking pecans up with my rainbow kale with a bit of garlic and golden raisins is a great lunch or light dinner. Here’s an example of one recipe for pecans with kale.
Nuts per serving: 49
Saturated Fat: 1.5 grams
Pistachios may be small but that doesn’t mean they pack any less nutrition. In fact, the little green nuts have several unique benefits. Pistachios have more lutein and zeaxanthin, two important carotenoids important for eye health. They also provide more phytosterols, the natural cholesterol-lowering compounds, than any other nut.
And new research also indicates how eating pistachios out of the shell helps to fool the brain full and most recently, research from USDA found that not all the calories in the nuts are absorbed. Pistachios have less total fat(13 grams) and more protein (6 grams) and fiber (3 grams) compared to other tree nuts.
Pistachios are a wonderful snack eaten out of the shell because it’s more “mindful.” Another great treat is to make combinations with fresh and dried fruit with goat cheese and then roll the goat cheese in chopped pistachios. Here is one recipes with pistachios, grapes and goat cheese and another with dried apricots.
Nuts per serving: 14 halves
Saturated Fat: 1.5 grams
Walnuts are one of the most thoroughly researched nuts and results from numerous studies show that walnuts provide wide-ranging health benefits form heart health to type 2 diabetes and neurological function. What’s more: a recent study just found that men who ate walnuts improved the quantity and quality of their sperm.
Walnuts are much more than a baking ingredient due to their unique nutritional profile. They’re the only nut that contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid.
Walnuts provide a modest four grams protein and 2 grams fiber per serving but they rank higher in antioxidants compared to most other nuts.
As a snack, they’re great in a trail mix but a wonderful idea is to make a batch of Mollie Katzen’s walnut pesto and have it on hand to serve with whole-wheat pasta but you can spread the walnut pesto on crostini or whole grain cracker for a healthy snack. Freeze pesto in ice cube trays and use as needed.