Nuts are tiny nutritional powerhouses that can benefit your health in many ways, but they haven’t always been considered healthy because of their high fat and calorie content. Nuts contain heart-healthy fats, as well as numerous vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help improve your overall health.
Research has found that nuts can help control blood sugar, lower cholesterol, improve heart health and prevent weight gain. They have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Breaking down the health benefits of nuts
Walnuts: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts may help decrease inflammation and lower total cholesterol. Walnuts are considered the best nuts for heart health, and they contain high amounts of alpha linoleic acid (ALA), which may help heart arrhythmias. One ounce of walnuts equals 14 walnut halves and 185 calories.
Almonds: The fat and fiber content in almonds slows down digestion, helping you feel satisfied faster. Almonds contain more calcium than other nuts and are also rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps fight inflammation and other health conditions. Almonds are the lowest-calorie nuts. One ounce of almonds equals 23 nuts and 163 calories.
Peanuts: Although they’re technically legumes (in the beans and peas family), peanuts contain healthy fats that slow digestion and help maintain blood sugar levels. They are high in folate, a mineral essential for brain development that may also protect against cognitive decline. Peanuts also contain a phytochemical that protects against heart disease. One ounce of peanuts equals 28 nuts and 166 calories.
Pistachios: Pistachios have been found to help lower total cholesterol levels. They are also high in lutein, an antioxidant that helps protect your eyes from macular degeneration. One ounce of pistachios equals 49 nuts and 158 calories.
Hazelnuts: Hazelnuts are high in folate, an important B vitamin. They also contain potassium and magnesium, which can help lower blood pressure. One ounce of hazelnuts equals 21 nuts and 178 calories.
Cashews: Rich in copper and magnesium as well as zinc, cashews help support a healthy immune system. One ounce of cashews equals 8 nuts and 157 calories.
Pecans: Pecans are among the top 15 food sources of antioxidants.They contain phytosterols, which are plant chemicals that may help protect against heart disease and lower total blood cholesterol levels. Pecans are higher in calories than most other nuts, and they contain lower amounts of protein and heart-healthy fats, so consume in moderation. One ounce of pecans equals 19 halves and 196 calories.
Macadamias: Macadamia nuts are high in B vitamins that help metabolize carbohydrates for energy. They rank highest in calories and saturated fat (a bad fat) compared to other nuts, so they should only be eaten occasionally. One ounce of macadamias equals 11 nuts and 204 calories.
While most nuts are healthy, not all nuts are created equal and some are healthier than others. It’s also important to remember that too much of a good thing can be detrimental — because of their high fat and high calorie content, keep your portions limited to a small handful (about one ounce).