While nuts are high in fat and calories, research shows that people who eat nuts tend to be leaner and have a lower risk of many diseases compared to people who don’t eat nuts. In fact, the New England Journal of Medicine published findings that show that eating a handful of nuts a day could possibly extend your life. Find out which type of nuts contain a potent antioxidant that may help fight cancer and which nuts can lower your “bad” cholesterol.
At 160 calories per serving, almonds contain about 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber — more than most other tree nuts. They’re also a good source of vitamin E, copper and magnesium. Ounce for ounce, almonds are the nut highest in calcium, with 75mg per ounce (about a quarter of the calcium in a glass of milk). Almonds are believed to play a role in weight management, heart health and even diabetes prevention. Research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that consuming almonds helped improve insulin sensitivity in people with prediabetes. The study also indicated that adding almonds to meals and snacks can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
One serving of cashews (about 160 calories) provides 4 grams of protein and is high in unsaturated fat. Cashews are also an excellent source of essential nutrients like copper and magnesium, plus they provide some iron as well. Here’s a piece of trivia that you probably didn’t know: The cashew “nut” is actually a seed that is harvested from the cashew fruit. Research from the New England Journal of Medicine found that higher nut consumption is linked with lower mortality, which means eating cashews and other nuts may help you fight off some diseases and live longer.
Brazil nuts are the largest nut, and one serving contains up to eight times the selenium you need in a day. Selenium is a potent antioxidant believed to have anti-cancer properties, and it may play a role in maintaining a healthy immune system. Brazil nuts are also a good source of copper, phosphorus and manganese. This nut is also among the highest in total fat (19 grams per serving) and saturated fat (4 grams per serving), so it’s less heart-smart than other nuts.
A staple on many “superfoods” lists, walnuts have earned their place for good reason. They contain the highest amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based omega-3 essential fatty acid, know for its anti-inflammatory properties and role in heart health. Walnuts also provide 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber, as well as minerals like magnesium and phosphorous. Studies show that in addition to their heart health benefits, walnuts can also help with weight management, diabetes and may even help reduce certain types of cancer. One study from the Journal of Nutrition showed that women who consumed walnuts tended to have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Research from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that walnuts might lower both total cholesterol and LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
Despite their name, peanuts aren’t really nuts. They belong to the legume family and grow underground. Peanuts contain about 7 grams of protein per serving and are a good source of many B vitamins. This makes them an excellent plant-based protein for your meals and snacks. The magnesium content in peanuts has been linked to cardiovascular health. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who consumed magnesium-rich foods, like peanuts, had fewer strokes. They also provide phytosterols, compounds that naturally lower cholesterol, as well as resveratrol, the same heart-healthy compound found in red wine.
Delicious and versatile, pecans can also help keep you healthy. At just under 200 calories per one-ounce serving, pecans provide 3 grams of dietary fiber and over 19 vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, potassium and zinc. According to the USDA, pecans are ranked among the top 20 foods for antioxidant capacity. Some research suggests that antioxidants play a role in reducing a variety of chronic diseases from cancer to heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease to vision loss. Pecans are also a rich source of oleic acid. Although more research is needed, early studies indicate that oleic acid, the same type of fatty acid found in olive oil, may help suppress a gene thought to trigger breast cancer.
Along with being one of the nuts containing the lowest amount of calories and fat, pistachios are also a nutritional powerhouse. This little nut is an excellent source of vitamin B6, copper and manganese and contains other essential vitamins and minerals. Studies show that pistachios may have important health benefits and play a role in heart health, weight management and even lowering mortality rates. Researchers at Harvard University found that eating a daily handful of nuts, like pistachios, may boost health and longevity.
Also known as filberts or cobnuts, hazelnuts are a flavorful addition to entrees, and they are especially popular in desserts. At around 180 calories per 1-ounce serving, hazelnuts contain 3 grams of fiber and are a good source of copper, magnesium, thiamin and vitamin E. Like other nuts, hazelnuts can have a protective effect on heart health. Research from the Journal of Clinical Lipidology found that a diet enriched with hazelnuts may help to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and total cholesterol. Hazelnuts also contain an especially high amount of proanthocyanidins, which are compounds found in plants that are believed to have anti-inflammatory and other health benefits.
Though probably best known for their role in making delicious desserts, macadamia nuts are also good for your health. At around 200 calories per serving, macadamia nuts are high in healthy monounsaturated fat and are a good source of thiamin and manganese. Studies indicate that tree nuts, including macadamias, improve overall diet quality by adding nutrients that are often lacking in typical American diets. Like many other nuts, macadamias are good for your heart. Studies show that they can help lower the risk of coronary artery disease in people with elevated cholesterol.