Unless you have an allergy, nuts are some of the healthiest foods you can turn to. Right at the start, it is essential to note that nuts pack a lot of calories into a small portion, so it is all about learning portion sizes for each type.
Along with seeds, nuts pack a powerhouse of nutrients, including protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and heart-healthy fat. You can eat nuts raw, roasted, salted, or ground up, as in nut butter. Some nuts, like peanuts, are legumes, so they are omitted here. Coconut is often classified as a tree nut for allergy purposes but is a fruit.
You can also have an allergy to only one or two kinds of nuts rather than all of them. While seeds have similar nutrient profiles to nuts, they typically have more polyunsaturated fat per serving than nuts.
Nuts are popular additions to specific diet plans, including keto, gluten-free, low-carb, low-Fodmap, Mediterranean, paleo, vegetarian, and vegan. It does not take a lot of nuts to provide a hefty serving of protein and nutrients to increase energy and satiety. They have also been shown to help the body burn calories for weight loss – if you stick to the recommended daily portion.
Popular Nuts and Health Benefits
Because nuts are high in fiber, their carbohydrate count is not as high as many other foods. However, the carb content of nuts can differ widely, as can the caloric count. Some nuts offer different benefits than others, and steering yourself to the best choice for your dietary needs can have a significant payoff in health benefits.
The listing below provides the recommended serving size for how many nuts you can consume for each variety, the net carb count, and some of their top benefits. You will find that cashews have the highest net carbohydrate count, followed by pistachios, so it is best to limit intake of those varieties when on a low-carb or keto diet.
- Almonds (24, 2 net carbs): Containing fewer calories than most other nuts, almonds protect the fat in cells from oxidation damage. Other benefits include glycemic control, reduced insulin resistance, weight control, increased HDL (good) cholesterol, and improved gut microbiota. Roasted almonds provide more benefits than raw almonds.
- Brazil nuts (6, 1 net carb): High in selenium, Brazil nuts support brain and thyroid functions, heart health, and blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation.
- Cashews (18, 7.5 net carbs): With their higher net carb count, cashews may not be the best choice when counting carbohydrates. However, as with other nuts, they have many health benefits, including for the heart and bones.
- Hazelnuts (21, 2 net carbs): Hazelnuts are excellent antioxidants that help improve digestion, immunity, brain functions, heart health, and bone strength.
- Macadamias (11, 2 net carbs): A favorite nut from Hawaii, macadamias may help with weight loss, improve gut health, and protect against heart disease and diabetes by lowering LDL and total cholesterol.
- Pecans (19 halves, 1 net carb): Pecans may help support immunity, reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and decrease the risk of heart disease.
- Pine nuts (167, 3 net carbs): Because they are so small, you can eat a lot of pine nuts, making them the perfect snack for movie night. Whether raw or roasted (think seasoning for fun flavors) or ground up in pesto, pine nuts can help improve heart and brain health and blood sugar levels and manage weight. Warning: quality pine nuts are expensive.
- Pistachios (49, 5 net carbs): These nuts, though higher in net carbs, provide improvements in glucose metabolism and vascular function, reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol, increased HDL cholesterol, decreased inflammation, and lower body mass index.
- Walnuts (14 halves, 2 net carbs): Walnuts are high in polyunsaturated nuts, so they are often recommended for people trying to lose weight. Walnuts are also better at fighting free radicals than fish and protecting cells from oxidation damage. A benefit for men with prostate cancer risk is improved prostate and vascular status biomarkers.
How Do Nuts Improve Our Health?
Nuts have high fiber content, which can help you feel full and improve gut bacteria and health. Almonds have the highest fiber content and are an excellent choice for people looking to lose weight.
Here are some of the many ways nuts improve our health:
- Have anti-inflammatory properties
Inflammation increases the risk of cellular and organ damage and chronic illness. Daily nut consumption has been shown to decrease inflammation markers, including interleukin 6 and C-reactive protein. Studies have found significant improvements in people with serious health conditions, including kidney disease and diabetes.
- Reduce blood sugar levels
Nuts are high in protein, fiber, and good fats that help manage blood sugar levels and reduce hunger cravings. Studies have shown that people with type 2 diabetes have a lower risk of heart disease and death when consuming at least 5 servings of nuts weekly.
- Increase weight loss
Studies have shown that people who include one serving of nuts daily lose more weight than those who do not consume nuts.
- Lower cholesterol
Because nuts are high in monounsaturated fat and low in saturated fat, they help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol while supporting high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Nuts also help lower triglyceride levels.
The polyphenols in nuts help neutralize free radicals to combat oxidative stress, reducing the risk of cell damage and disease risk.
- May reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke
Nuts help lower LDL cholesterol levels and inflammatory markers to help clear the arteries to reduce the risk of buildup and potential heart attack and stroke due to blood clots.
When looking at heart attack and stroke risk, these issues can also appear due to some medications, especially when not prescribed. For instance, hormones like steroids or HGH are used off-label without a doctor’s prescription. Knowing the difference between using these medications for prescribed health purposes and illegal use is crucial. To discover crucial information, find out more about HGH vs. steroids and the difference they make in the body.
- Are highly nutritious
Nuts are high in copper, magnesium, manganese, omega-3 fatty acids, phosphorus, selenium, vitamin E, and zinc and provide significant fiber and protein content.
Watch Portion Size with Daily Intake of Nuts
Because nuts have so many health benefits for the body, many people look to substitute them for unhealthier snack options, such as chips and pretzels, which have minimal nutrient profiles. Since portion sizes are often larger with other “snack” foods, consuming too many nuts in one sitting is easy – especially when watching TV.
The suggested nut serving is ¼ cup, or one ounce (30 grams), equivalent to a small handful. If you consume nut butter, do not have a serving of nuts on the same day. The recommended portion size of nut butter is two tablespoons. Nut butter should contain only raw or roasted nuts, with no additives (or only added salt).
Also, if you are using nuts in cooking or baking, consider those numbers when planning your daily meals and snacks. With their high caloric counts, overindulging in nuts can pack on the pounds when you are trying to do the opposite. Remember, moderation is the key to everything. Avoid using nut oils in cooking (coconut does not count) unless expressly called for in a recipe, as they do not have the same fiber profile as raw nuts. Extra virgin olive oil and avocado oils are the better choice. When used, walnut oil packs the most omega-3 fatty acids.
Consuming nuts in moderation has many health benefits for the body. They make an excellent option for snacking and are part of many heart-healthy diets.
The versatility of nuts allows for their use in many ways, including cooking and baking. They can be enjoyed anytime, from pesto sauces to nut flours, added to stir fry, or dipped in chocolate.
Roasting enhances the flavor of nuts, and sprinkling them with cinnamon and other spices can provide interesting snacking options. They can also be used to make homemade trail mix and granola.
If you are looking for an effortless way to improve your health, add a serving of nuts daily.