Nuts are without a doubt the perfect snack, as well as a great addition to various dishes. They are full of healthy fats, fibre, and protein, and are a source of many important nutrients and antioxidants. Studies have shown that eating nuts has a number of health benefits. So which nuts are the best for us to eat? Read on for more information about these delicious and healthy snacks.
Top benefits of nuts
Nuts are a subgroup of fruits, however they are more caloric and contain more protein and fat than other common fruits. That said, it is this fat content that makes nuts beneficial to our health: it’s dominated by healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which positively influence the lipid balance in our bodies.
Nuts are rich in minerals: potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron. Unfortunately, they also provide a lot of phosphorus, which is less beneficial as consuming too much of this element makes it difficult for our bodies to absorb calcium. In addition to minerals, nuts also provide vitamins, mainly from group B, with almonds and hazelnuts also being rich in vitamin E.
Types of nuts
The family of nuts consists of many nutritious types that can be used as a snack, added to meals, or turned into a source of protein for vegans. Nuts can also be used to produce plant- based milk or oils. Because of their nutritious components, some nuts are also used in the production of cosmetics.
Nuts have many similar ingredients, however, the amounts of them may vary. Each nut has its own “special power”. Here’s a look at some of the most popular nuts in detail.
These have a unique composition amongst all the nuts. Almonds are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which have a beneficial effect on the brain tissue and the cardiovascular system, fibre which improves the functioning of the intestines, as well as minerals and vitamins.
Eating almonds can have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system, protecting against atherosclerosis and heart attack. Almonds also have a beneficial effect on the nervous and immune systems and contain anti-cancer properties.
A serving of almonds (28 g) provides 164 calories, mainly from fat, however, these fats are mostly unsaturated. A portion of almonds can replace a meal – a second breakfast or afternoon tea, which makes almonds a great, nutritious snack.
Additionally, almonds lower LDL cholesterol (the so-called bad cholesterol) while increasing levels of HDL (good cholesterol). Thanks to this, by eating almonds we can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, and stroke. Read more about cholesterol here.
These are valued mainly for their selenium content, which is higher than in all other nuts. Brazil nuts are known for being the richest source of selenium out of all foods, an element which increases the body’s immunity. Selenium may also lower the risk of some forms of cancer and is essential for the metabolism of thyroid hormones. Additionally, selenium is especially needed by men because it improves the quality of their semen. Brazil nuts also contain high content of calcium (160mg in 100g), which strengthens bones and teeth. They’re also a great source of magnesium, which soothes the nerves, and potassium, which lowers blood pressure. Brazil nuts also contain vitamin E and folic acid, an important vitamin for pregnant women.
These are a source of protein, antioxidants, vitamins (A, D, E, group B) and minerals (potassium, phosphorus), as well as magnesium, calcium, iron, sodium, zinc, and selenium. All these ingredients contained in cashew nuts have a very important effect on the proper functioning of the body.
Cashews have the least calories of all nuts, with 553 calories in 100 grams of cashews.
Thanks to their nutrient content, cashews protect against many diseases and ailments. Research shows that they help against the development of type II diabetes, and due to their low glycemic index, cashews can be eaten by diabetics. Thanks to the content of fatty acids, cashews also regulate the level of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.
They also affect the cardiovascular system, with minerals like magnesium reducing the risk of heart attack or atherosclerosis. Potassium, in turn, lowers blood pressure and regulates the work of the heart muscle. Vitamin K contributes to proper blood clotting, and B vitamins are the allies of the nervous system, improving concentration and memory.
Another reason to eat cashew nuts is the content of antioxidants, which inhibit the negative effects of free radicals. If all these pro-health properties have not yet encouraged someone to include cashews in the daily menu, it’s worth noting that these nuts not only improve our health, but thanks to zinc and selenium, also the condition of our skin, hair and nails.
These have a positive effect on blood flow in the blood vessels, making chestnuts useful in the treatment of thrombophlebitis, hemorrhoids, venous stasis and other diseases that cause pain, muscle spasms, or body tingling.
Chestnuts also have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and diastolic properties on the gastrointestinal tract, improving the functioning of the intestines and reducing digestive problems. They can also help with regenerating the liver and spleen.
Chestnuts are natural radiators, and can retain neutralising properties against harmful substances for up to a month. Many people keep them next to electronic devices – TVs, computers, microwaves, and also mobile phones, because they absorb electromagnetic radiation that is harmful to us.
Who doesn’t love the nutty flavour of hazelnuts paired with chocolate? These delicious nuts are also great on their own, however, and can provide many benefits to our health. The greatest advantage of hazelnuts is the large amount of vitamin E, otherwise known as the “vitamin of youth and fertility”. It has strong antioxidant properties, supporting the body’s defense against the harmful effects of free radicals.
The vitamin E contained in hazelnuts also protects against the effects of bad cholesterol, preventing the formation of atherosclerotic lesions, which is important in the prevention of myocardial infarction. In addition, vitamin E prevents the occurrence of anemia.
Hazelnuts are also high in B vitamins, necessary for the proper functioning of the nervous system. We can also find vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, folic acid, and Niacin - also known as nicotinic acid, is an organic compo... More. Among the micronutrients, an important place is potassium, which helps to maintain a constant level of pressure, and phosphorus and calcium, which are valuable for our bones and teeth.
It’s also worth mentioning the iron, magnesium, and zinc found in hazelnuts.
Introducing hazelnuts to the diet is especially recommended for people who are at risk of hypertension, atherosclerosis, and blood clots. This is because hazelnuts can have healing properties for these diseases, due to the potassium and healthy fatty acids content.
Hazelnuts are also an additional source of fibre and arginine (=> you can learn more here why fibre is so important in your diet).
These Australian grown nuts have many nutritional values that make them very valuable. The antioxidant properties of macadamia nuts fight against free radicals. Macadamias also contain a lot of iron, which helps them improve cellular metabolism and stabilise blood sugar levels. They also strengthen the musculoskeletal system and prevent anaemia, and have a positive effect on the heart by lowering blood cholesterol. Eating more macadamia nuts can give you better memory and concentration and help you better cope with stress. On top of that, macadamias keep hair, skin, and nails in excellent condition.
Macadamias contain large amounts of unsaturated fats and valuable minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and phosphorus.
These Australian nuts also contain many vitamins, including vitamins A, E, and B (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6). 100 grams of macadamia nuts will fully cover manganese and copper requirements for the day. Macadamia nuts are also ideal for those who follow a gluten-free diet.
Macadamia nuts are very high in calories, with almost 700 kcal in 100 grams. However, these come almost entirely from monounsaturated fats, which don’t build up body fat. Because of this, it’s worth adding macadamia nuts to your diet.
It’s worth mentioning that even the smallest amounts of macadamia nuts can be toxic to dogs (=> find out more about your dog’s diet).
Pecans consist of 70% fats. They provide many antioxidants, as well as protein, fibre, B vitamins, and vitamins C, K, and E. Pecans are also rich in minerals like sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and calcium. Nutritionists believe that eating a few pecans a day can help boost zinc and vitamin B1 levels. Regular consumption of pecans can also reduce the risk of developing cancer. Pecans also lower the level of cholesterol in the body and regulate blood pressure.
Pecans improve the condition of the skin and also have a positive effect on eyesight. They strengthen the nail plate, as well as the roots and entire structure of the hair.
These inconspicuous nuts are distinguished by containing more antioxidants than any other nut. They also strengthen the body’s overall immunity.
Like other nuts, eating pine nuts can have many benefits. However, compared to other members of the nut family, pine nuts can be distinguished by their high zinc content, which has a positive effect on male fertility. This is why pine nuts are considered an aphrodisiac. Scientists also argue that pine nuts should be included in a slimming diet.
Pine nuts are a rich source of vitamin K, which many nuts either do not have at all or contain only small amounts (with the exception of cashews, which have the same amount of vitamin K). This important vitamin is responsible for a proper blood clotting process, reduces excessive menstrual bleeding, inhibits the growth of cancer, and calcifies bones, which protects against osteoporosis.
In alternative medicine, pine nuts are used to treat dizziness, dry cough, rheumatism, and constipation.
Pine nuts also contain niacin, which has a positive effect not only on the nervous system, but also on the condition of the skin (being deficient in niacin increases the risk of skin diseases and hair loss).
These are the only nuts that contain carotenoids: lutein and zeaxanthin. Pistachios also contain the most potassium of all nuts.
Pistachios have numerous health-promoting properties, which include balancing the level of good and bad cholesterol in the body. They have antioxidant properties, which translates into a positive effect on most health problems. They also help to alleviate menopausal symptoms and improve eye health, especially in the elderly.
100 grams of pistachios contains over 550 calories of energy. This is made up of 67% fat, 20% carbohydrate and 13% protein.
In addition to vitamins (C and B vitamins), pistachios also contain lutein, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.
All nuts are high in calories, and walnuts are the record breakers with 645 kcal in 100 grams.
Walnuts have anti-inflammatory, detoxifying, anti-hemorrhagic, fungicidal, and astringent properties. Eating walnuts improves digestion and lowers cholesterol and blood pressure. A walnut tincture or infusion of dried walnut leaves is used to treat bacterial diarrhea, ulceration, poisoning, gastroenteritis, gastrointestinal bleeding, and diabetes.
What’s more, walnuts are just as effective as olive oil in reducing blood vessel inflammation after eating a fatty meal. It’s recommended that you eat about 8 walnuts a day to achieve similar results.
Walnuts consist of 15% of high-quality protein, which is why, like almonds and cashews, they are an important component of a vegetarian diet. They are distinguished by a record content of polyunsaturated fatty acids – just three walnuts cover the daily requirement for omega-3 fatty acids. They’re also a rich source of vitamin B6 and are recommended for pregnant women due to the high content of folic acid.
Which nuts are the healthiest?
While all nuts have their own benefits for the body, there are varieties that are healthier than others. Each nut has different properties that can be useful for different needs.
Almonds are the noblest of nuts and are therefore given the title of “king of nuts”. They consist of more than 20% protein (only peanuts have more protein than almonds). They’re also a rich source of magnesium, which protects against stress (they contain 270mg in 100 g, which is 80% of the daily requirement), and phosphorus.
All nuts contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids, but walnuts win in this category as they contain alpha lipoic acid (ALA), which has been shown to help with cardiac arrhythmias.
When to eat nuts, and when to avoid them?
Nuts are especially recommended for people who have a high energy expenditure, i.e. children in a period of growth with a healthy weight, people who are physically active, and those who need to increase their body weight. Of course, others can eat nuts but better in moderation.
Obese and overweight people should consume nuts in small amounts due to the high fat content. It should also be noted that nuts are one of the most common allergens and can cause a number of symptoms, including skin changes, respiratory or digestive system changes, or the most dangerous symptom, anaphylactic shock. People with nut allergies should therefore beware and read product labels carefully.
Can I eat nuts when I am on a diet?
As stated by Better Health Australia, eating nuts is not associated with weight gain, even though nuts and seeds are high in energy and fats. In fact, based on large population studies, a higher nut intake has actually been associated with lower body weight.
When included as part of a weight-loss diet, nuts have been shown to further promote weight and fat loss in the abdominal region. Less fat in the abdominal region means lower risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Nuts can therefore be part of a healthy diet. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend a daily consumption of 30 grams of nuts per day.
Nuts can be a part of a weight loss diet as a snack, mixed with breakfast cereals, or added to a salad.
It’s worth mentioning that while nutritionists recommend a handful of nuts a day, when on a diet it’s best to limit that amount to three or four times a week. This is because of their high caloric value. If you’re trying to lose weight, you should also eat nuts by themselves. They should not be salted or added to chocolates and cakes as this will provide unnecessary calories. It’s also important to remember that although nuts contain quite a lot of fibre, they are also high in fat. For this reason, eating large amounts can cause constipation.
What nuts are the best to eat when on a diet?
The best choice of nuts when you’re on a diet are Brazil nuts, walnuts, almonds, and pistachios. Brazil nuts contain a lot of selenium, with two nuts alone providing a daily dose of this mineral. Selenium is also extremely important when trying to lose weight as it speeds up metabolism. Brazil nuts are also a valuable source of magnesium, zinc, potassium, and healthy fatty acids.
Walnuts are another good nut for weight loss. Some studies have found that those who eat a handful of walnuts each day lose more weight, and faster, and experience reduced levels of cholesterol.
Almonds are also a good nut to choose when following a weight loss diet. They have the least calories of all nuts, with ten almonds containing only 78 calories. Almonds are rich in fatty acids – the unsaturated ones – which means they burn fat faster.
Nutritionists also recommend pistachios, as they can help lower cholesterol and lose weight. Pistachios have a positive effect on the circulatory system and are an extremely tasty and addictive snack.