The 7 Healthiest Nuts to Include in Your Diet

Healthiest nuts

Nuts are so healthy. They are associated with lower risk of chronic illnesses and all kinds of health benefits. But is there a list of the healthiest nuts? You bet!

It’s extremely short and easy to remember. Here’s how they rank from least healthy to healthiest:

1) Any nut covered in chocolate, sugar, candy, or lots of salt

2) Any plain, raw, or roasted nut

That’s really it. “Healthy nuts” is almost a redundant phrase. They are naturally healthy, and to lose their value, they need to undergo heavy processing, much like a candy apple.

What makes nuts so healthy? They are a terrific source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats, fiber, and protein. There is a substantial body of evidence showing that a daily serving of nuts can have benefits on:

  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol
  • Heart health
  • Cognitive health
  • Memory
  • Oxidative stress
  • Circulation
  • Diabetes

Not all nuts are created equal. But no matter which one you pick, you can bet it’s a healthy snack that promotes good health.

Walnuts, for example, are a great source of omega-3s. While Brazil nuts have so much selenium that you can eat one per day for a month to repair a deficiency. And a serving of almonds packs more than 30% of your daily vitamin E requirement.

In short, there is no bad choice. If you’re eating one or two servings of nuts per day, you’re doing your body good.

The 7 Healthiest Nuts to Eat

1. Almonds

Almonds are well-studied and widely available. They are also extremely healthy.

A one-ounce (28-gram) serving contains:

Nutrient Amount % Daily Value
Calories 161 8%
Fat 14 grams (g) 21%
Protein 6 g 12%
Fiber 3.5 g 14%
Carbohydrate 6 g 2%
Vitamin E 7.3 milligrams (mg) 37%
Magnesium 75 mg 19%
Manganese 0.6 mg 32%
Copper 0.3 mg 14%

 

Research suggests that almonds might help reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol. They may also contribute to weight loss because they are fiber-rich and highly satiating. Other work has shown that eating almonds may help reduce blood pressure in overweight or obese individuals.

Almonds may have specific benefits for diabetics. One study found that eating a meal with an ounce of almonds was able to slow post-meal blood spikes by up to 30% in diabetics.

2. Walnuts

Walnuts are unique because of their omega-3 content. This sets them apart from other nuts, and may lead to some unique benefits.

A 28-gram (one-ounce) serving contains:

Nutrient Amount % Daily Value
Calories 183 9%
Fat 18 g 28%
Protein 4 g 9%
Fiber 2 g 8%
Carbohydrate 4 g 1%
Vitamin E 0.2 mg 1%
Magnesium 44 mg 11%
Manganese 1 mg 48%
Copper 0.4 mg 22%

 

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the type of omega-3 found in walnuts, and it likely plays a significant role in many of the benefits.

A large body of work has shown that eating walnuts is associated with:

  • Lower total cholesterol
  • Reductions in “bad” LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol
  • Increased heart-healthy “good” HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol

These benefits can reduce atherosclerosis, encourage better blood flow, and ultimately reduce the risk for heart disease and heart attack.

Walnuts have also been associated with lower inflammation and improved brain function.

3. Brazil Nuts

Brazil nuts are less common than the options above, but they are a unique and valuable nut. They come from Brazil nut trees (Bertholletia excelsa) in the Amazon rainforest, and are the best source of selenium you can get.

One ounce of Brazil nuts has:

Nutrient Amount % Daily Value
Calories 184 9%
Fat 19 g 29%
Protein 4 g 8%
Fiber 2 g 8%
Carbohydrate 3 g 1%
Vitamin E 1.6 mg 8%
Magnesium 105 mg 26%
Manganese 0.3 mg 17%
Copper 0.5 mg 24%
Phosphorus 203 mg 20%
Selenium 537 micrograms (mcg) 767%

 

That serving size will give you well over 100% of your selenium needs. Selenium is an antioxidant that can help defend your body from harmful free radicals. It can help with immune support and cognitive function, and reduce the risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease.

4. Pistachios

Pistachios are another healthy nut. They are also a popular snack, sliding them nicely into that “healthy snack” category. As with any nut, however, paying attention to serving size is essential.

A 28-gram serving of pistachios provides:

Nutrient Amount % Daily Value
Calories 156 8%
Fat 12 g 19%
Protein 6 g 12%
Fiber 3 g 12%
Carbohydrate 8 g 3%
Vitamin E 0.6 mg 3%
Vitamin B6 0.5 mg 24%
Magnesium 34 mg 8%
Manganese 0.3 mg 17%
Copper 0.4 mg 18%

 

Research has shown that pistachios may help limit spikes in blood sugar after a meal. That’s not the only feature they share with almonds. Pistachios may also boost “good” HDL cholesterol, improve blood pressure, and protect cells from oxidation.

5. Cashews

Cashews are another popular nut that can have extensive health benefits. Studies have shown they can improve blood pressure and increase HDL cholesterol. A one-ounce serving also contains 20% of the daily requirement of magnesium, which is a common deficiency in Western diets.

The serving also contains:

Nutrient Amount % Daily Value
Calories 155 8%
Fat 12 g 19%
Protein 5 g 10%
Fiber 1 g 4%
Carbohydrate 9 g 3%
Vitamin E 0.3 mg 1%
Magnesium 82 mg 20%
Manganese 0.5 mg 23%
Copper 0.6 mg 31%

 

Cashews are great on their own and can be a delicious addition to salads, roasted vegetables, stir-fries, oats, or yogurt.

6. Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts make for a great cookie topping, but they are even better all on their own. Just be careful about snacking too much—just one ounce provides a whopping 20 grams of (healthy) fat!

But don’t take that the wrong way. Eating way too many of these nuts can lead to weight gain (if you’re adding them to an already high-calorie diet), but that doesn’t necessarily make them bad for your heart.

Just the opposite, in fact. The fat in macadamia nuts comes from monounsaturated fats, which are associated with lowering total and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.

One 28-gram serving offers:

Nutrient Amount % Daily Value
Calories 200 10%
Fat 21 g 33%
Protein 2 g 4%
Fiber 2.4 g 10%
Carbohydrate 4 g 1%
Vitamin E 0.2 mg 1%
Magnesium 36 mg 9%
Manganese 1.2 mg 58%
Copper 0.2 mg 11%

7. Peanuts

Peanuts are not, technically, a nut; they are members of the legume family. They look and feel like a nut, of course, and most people consider them to be a nut. The word “nut” is even in their name.

Because of their popularity, health value, similarity to nuts—and the fact that they’re widely considered “nuts”—we’ll include them in our list of healthy nuts.

Does the nutritional value of a one-ounce serving of peanuts look much different than that of a nut?

Nutrient Amount % Daily Value
Calories 159 8%
Fat 14 g 21%
Protein 7 g 14%
Fiber 2 g 10%
Carbohydrate 5 g 2%
Vitamin E 2 mg 12%
Magnesium 47 mg 12%
Manganese 0.5 mg 27%
Copper 0.3 mg 16%

 

There is plenty of data showcasing the benefits of eating peanuts and peanut butter. It may:

  • Cut down risk for all-cause mortality
  • Improve heart disease risk factors
  • Reduce risk of type 2 diabetes

How to Include Nuts in Your Diet

There is really no bad choice of nut. There’s also no shortage of ways to use them. Nuts can be eaten:

  • Buttered (just make sure you’re selecting natural nut butters without added salt and sugars, like icing sugar!)
  • Crushed and sprinkled over salads or used to crust fish, poultry, or meat
  • Roasted
  • Whole and raw as a snack
  • Toasted and sprinkled over green veggies like beans, asparagus, or broccoli

Just remember that nuts can go from healthy to unhealthy in a heartbeat. Sugar- or chocolate-coated nuts, heavily salted options, or nut butters with added sugar, salt, and icings, can strip the benefits from these naturally nutritious snacks.

If you’re sitting down with a bag of chocolate-covered almonds, you’re not having a healthy snack!

The Healthiest Nut Is Too Close to Call

These are just seven of the healthiest nuts. You can’t go wrong when selecting a plain and natural raw, roasted, or buttered nut of any type. They are all packed with nutrients that can have sizeable health benefits and fit easily into any diet. So, beauty is in the eye of the beholder: eat the ones you like the best.

Sources:
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