There’s a new nut store that just opened up down the street from our head office. Yup, a whole store dedicated to nuts. Roasted, salted, cayenne, wasabi, honey dipped, chocolate covered and more nut options than you could have imagined before walking into this sweet and salty shop. This new development has inspired us to explore this delicious food group. Let’s get Nutty!
Are Nuts Good For You?
Nuts seem like a pretty easy go-to snack. You find them in trail mixes, at your local sports bar, and in granola or energy snacks. They must be a healthy thing to eat, right?
Right! Nuts are nature’s way of showing us that good things come in small packages. High in nutrients, they are a very healthy snack for you. The beauty of nuts is that you can carry them with you wherever you go. Have a small Ziploc bag of almonds in your purse and you’re certain to have a healthy snack to eat with you at all times. There is no need for special containers and they have a long shelf-life.
As with many things, a little goes a long way. Having a handful to carry you to your next meal is a great idea! Eat more than that and you’re ingesting a ton of calories that could throw off your whole day. Even more detrimental would be the nuts that are sugary or salty.
What makes nuts healthy?
- A great addition to a healthy diet as they are loaded with fiber, minerals, antioxidants and healthy fats. They also tend to be a nice protein choice for vegetarians.
- Filled with a healthy amount of monounsaturated fatty acids. These fats help to lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. Research shows that these fatty acids help prevent heart disease and stroke by supporting the body’s lipid profile.
- Also a rich source of omega 3 essential fatty acids. What makes omega 3s essential? Our body doesn’t make it on its own. It needs to come from diet. Research is also showing that our essential fats must work in ratio with each other. Meaning that our omega 3s must work with omega 6 in a specific balance. Now, omega 6 is relatively easy to get from food but omega 3s are more difficult to intake. The benefits of omega 3 are astounding. They help lower blood pressure, coronary disease, strokes, and breast, colon and prostate cancers. The also benefit those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
- High in antioxidants such as carotenes, resveratrol, lutein and more. These compounds offer protection against cancers, heart disease, nerve damage, Alzheimer’s disease, and viral/fungal infections.
- Rich in minerals. High in manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, fluoride and selenium. This means they help lower toxicity in the body, control heart rate and blood pressure, keep blood cells healthy and help build strong bones and teeth.
- High in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. This powerful vitamin is required for healthy skin and gut lining.
- Abundant in vitamin B, essential for well-being and stress reduction.
What are the best nuts to eat?
Generally, when we’re talking about this healthy food, we’re talking about a pretty small amount. Why? Because nuts are very nutrient-dense. This means that they carry an amazing amount of nutrition in a very small package. When we’re suggesting adding them to your diet, we’re suggesting that you eat a handful… tops. Or, if you’re the measuring type, maximum a ¼ cup (which is roughly one ounce of nuts).
One ounce of the following nuts looks something like this:
- Hazelnuts 21 nuts 180 calories
- Macadamia 11 nuts 200 calories
- Pecans 19 halves 200 calories
- Pine Nuts 165 nuts 190 calories
- Pistachios 49 nuts 160 calories
- Walnuts 14 halves 190 calories
The lowest-calorie nuts are almonds, cashews, and pistachios. Avoid nuts packaged or roasted in oil; instead, eat them raw or dry roasted. Macadamia nuts have the highest calorie count, and with only 11 weighing in at one ounce, you aren’t getting much bang for your buck. They are high in calories because they are very high in healthy fats; making them a top choice for people who are following a high-fat diet. Another thing to keep in mind is that nuts contain certain compounds (phytates and tannins) which can cause bloating and gas. This can also make them difficult to digest. For some, the high-fat content can cause diarrhea. So take the time to measure out those servings!
Ounce per ounce – which nut is best?
Let’s now rate these nutrient powerhouses against each other!
- Highest in Protein = Almonds
- Highest in Total Fat = Macadamia
- Highest in Saturated = Fat Brazil
- Highest in Omega 3 = Walnuts
- Highest in Carbs = Cashews
- Highest in Fibre = Almonds
- Highest in Potassium = Pistachios
- Highest in Magnesium = Brazil
- Highest in Zinc = Cashews
- Highest in Copper = Cashews
- Highest in B6 = Pistachios
- Highest in Folate = Hazelnuts
- Highest in Riboflavin = Almonds
- Highest in Niacin = Almonds
- Highest in Vitamin E = Almonds
- Highest in Calcium = Almonds (almost double other nuts)
- Highest in Iron = Cashews
When compared ounce for ounce, almonds are the tree nut highest in protein, fiber, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin, and niacin. In fact, almonds are the best source of six of the 13 daily required nutrients while being amongst the lowest in calories. Because they’re so versatile, almonds are often a favorite among nut eaters: You can buy them raw, toasted, slivered, or coated with a variety of fun flavors.
Are some nuts better for specific health conditions?
Best nuts for your heart
While all nuts contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, walnuts have high amounts of alpha linoleic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in plants. Research has suggested that ALA may help heart arrhythmias and studies suggest that walnuts were as effective as olive oil at reducing inflammation and oxidation in the arteries after eating a fatty meal.
Best nuts for your brain
Hazelnuts are high in folate—a mineral essential for brain development that may protect against cognitive decline. Also making it a great choice for vegetarians, and pregnant women, who need folate to protect their unborn babies from birth defects. Like most other nuts, hazelnuts are full of brain-boosting healthy fats and vitamin E.
Best nuts for men
Brazil Nuts, Pecans
Creamy Brazil nuts are packed with selenium, a mineral that may protect against prostate cancer and other diseases. Just one nut contains more than a day’s worth!
Pecans are also good for men’s health as they’re loaded with a plant steroid that may help relieve symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), otherwise known as an enlarged prostate.
Best nuts for disease prevention
Relatively low in calories, almonds have more calcium than any other nut, making them a great food for overall health. Plus, they are rich in fiber and vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps fight dangerous inflammation and possibly health conditions such as lung cancer and age-related cognitive decline.
What if you just like nuts?
Maybe you don’t have a particular reason to eat nuts other than you like them and they’re convenient.
Best nuts for a salt craving
Look for ‘lightly salted or seasoned’
If you don’t have high blood pressure or haven’t been warned away from salt by your doctor, a handful of salted nuts a day won’t hurt you. We prefer that you select nuts that are lightly salted with sea salt and, of course, don’t forget that nuts are available unsalted. But, if you need to satisfy a salty craving without going overboard, read the nutrition labels and find varieties that contain between 45 – 80 mg of sodium per serving.
Best nuts for chocolate lovers
Go for cocoa-dusted almonds
Rather than hiding your nuts under a thick layer of sugary chocolate candy – like peanut M&Ms – keep it simple with nuts that are lightly dusted with cocoa powder and sweetened with organic cane syrup or stevia.
We’d love to suggest a “worst” nuts for chocolate lovers, but the possibilities are practically endless. Just think of it this way, anything that’s more chocolate than nut really should be considered candy – not as a way to get your daily quota of healthy fats.
Best trail mix
Raw nuts, seeds, and unsweetened dried fruit
Trail mix is available in countless varieties and from countless brands. We suggest looking for trail mix with raw nuts. Or, if the nuts are roasted, look for the words ‘dry roasted’ on the labeling.
Nuts taste great with fruit, seeds, and perhaps even a little dark organic chocolate. The high-fat content of the nuts helps the body remain stable from the added sugar of the dried fruit. Just watch out for the calorie count and serving size. Focus on healthy organic nuts and seeds with unsweetened dried fruit like cranberries, goji berries or tart cherries.
Worst trail mix
Save high-calorie mixes for the trail
High-calorie trail mix is fine when you’ve got a long hike ahead of you. Perhaps this is why it’s called trail mix? Too often we end up eating these store-bought blends while sitting at our desks or driving in our cars. Don’t make that mistake. Check labels for sky-high sugar contents: Some trail mixes—especially those with raisins, dried cranberries, and/or candy-covered chocolate pieces—can contain up to 18 grams of sugar per serving. Better yet, make your own mix with dry-roasted nuts, dried blueberries, and unsweetened coconut.
Best nut butter
Keep ingredients simple
When choosing a nut butter, look for spreads with the fewest ingredients possible: Just nuts (and salt, if you want). Try creamy cashew and almond butter, or chunky natural hazelnut butter. The price is worth the nutrient value. Plus, when you buy natural and unsweetened nut butter, you can choose to sweeten it yourself with some healthy raw honey or a tsp of maple syrup. Keep natural nut butter in the fridge to keep it from going rancid and to prevent oily separation.
Worst nut butter
Skip added oils and sugars
Major brands have eliminated trans fats from their nut butter, but most still contain hydrogenated oils (high in saturated fat) to increase spreadability and prevent separation. Some “natural” product lines swap hydrogenated oils for palm oil, also high in saturated fat. It’s important to note that even though products claim to be “trans fat-free”, they are still allowed a small percentage of trans fat. Anything that has a hydrogenated oil has trans fats.
Best way to eat nuts
Pair them with a healthy carb
Now that you know all there is to know about nuts and how to get the most health benefits from eating them. It’s also important to pay attention to how you eat them. Nuts are a great thing to eat when you’re having a carbohydrate like fruit because it helps slow down digestion and the breakdown of sugar. Make a healthy combo by sprinkling them on salads, adding them to natural Greek yogurt, or spread nut butter on slices of apples or pear.
Best nuts overall
A mixed bag!
So which is the healthiest nut overall? Luckily, we don’t have to pick just one. Mixed nuts, ideally raw and unsalted, provide the best variety of nutrients and antioxidants. Make your own mix or rotate through a selection of healthy nuts throughout your week to maximize the benefits and nutrients they provide.
Stick to a small portion and enjoy with ease as you boost your nutrition with these small nutrient powerhouses.
Want to get a bit more creative with your nuts?
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