Top 5 Healthiest Nuts You Can Eat
Nuts have had a bad rap for years because they are high in calories and fat, but now that the days of reduced-fat peanut butter are over, they are reclaiming their place as a daily part of a healthy diet.
With so many kinds of nuts at the grocery store in the bulk aisle, choosing which to put in your cart can be difficult. "Nuts are not all created equal after all," says Gabrielle Mancilla, MS, RD, Orlando Health's corporate health dietitian.
Although all nuts make great additions to a healthy diet (and in moderation, they are great snacking staples), they're not all the same, says Mancilla. "Each type of nut has unique characteristics, offers different fat types and contains different amounts of fiber, protein, and carbohydrates."
For example, while macadamia nuts contain 220 calories and 23 grams of fat per serving 1/4-cup, peanuts (which, indeed, are technically legumes) contain only 150 calories and 15 grams of fat per serving 1/2-cup.
The nuts that best fit your lifestyle, according to Mancilla, may depend on your individual needs and goals. While low-carb eaters can prefer pecans (which provide only 1 gram of net carbs per serving), individuals who need more protein may eat more peanuts (which provide 8 grams of protein per serving).
Mancilla likes walnuts because many food boxes (such as carb content, protein, and other prominent nutrients) are filled out by people when they select nuts. "If you want to improve your cholesterol or get the lipid panels back in balance, walnuts can improve the process of eliminating ' bad ' LDL cholesterol," Mancilla says. Walnuts are particularly rich in polyunsaturated fats, which, she explains, have been associated with several cardiovascular health benefits. Besides, for a few carbs (less than 3 grams) per serving, walnuts provide a fair amount of protein (5 grams), Mancilla adds.
Cashews also contain folate (a critical B vitamin during pregnancy) and are high in hard-to-find copper (which helps our bodies maintain collagen and elastin structural proteins), she adds. One serving of cashews — approximately 1 ounce — contains about 600 micrograms of copper, about 1/3 of the daily intake recommended for adults.
"Cashews have fewer calories than walnuts per meal," Mancilla says. If you're looking for a crunchy snack, but keep an eye on your calories, that's good news.
Pistaches are another nut worth adding into your diet, says Mancilla, rich in protein and smaller in carbs and fats than walnuts and cashews. In fact, they also provide 6 grams of protein per serving — more than most of the nuts you get!
Pistachios also contain high amounts of multiple minerals — including magnesium and phosphorus — and the B vitamins thiamin and B6 in addition to their impressive macronutrient profile (carb, fat and protein content).
However, according to studies published in the Journal of Nutrition, pistachios contain more antioxidants (including lutein and beta-carotene) than almost any other nut in the world. This is the root of their vibrant green hue!
Almonds might just be the most popular snacking nut — and they’ve also got plenty of nutritional creds to boot.
“Almonds are packed with fiber to support gut health and regularity,” says Mancilla. Plus, they also provide vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant.
Thanks to almonds’ mild flavor, they’re agreeable to almost any palate. It’s no wonder almond butters and milk alternatives have taken over store shelves.
Though you might associate pecans only with Thanksgiving and pecan pie, these slightly sweet nuts deserve a spot in the pantry year-round.
“Pecans contain monounsaturated fats, such as oleic acid, along with phenolic antioxidants, which help reduce the risk of heart disease,” Mancilla says. Not to mention, they’re lower in carbs than many other nuts.
To save money on often-pricy pecans, Mancilla recommends buying them chopped in the baking aisle. (Pecans not deemed ‘pretty’ enough for the nut aisle often end up there.)
To reap the most benefits of these nutritious nuts, incorporate as many types as possible — especially walnuts, cashews, and pistachios — into your diet.
“Walnut butter is one of my favorite spreads,” says Mancilla, who loves pairing it with a sliced apple for an afternoon snack.
She also loves adding pistachios to DIY trail mix and using cashew milk to add creaminess to oatmeal and coffee.
You can load up on other nuts and seeds by adding peanut butter to smoothies, spreading creamy sunflower seed or almond butter on crunchy rice cakes or topping chia pudding, oatmeal or smoothie bowls with slivered almonds, chopped walnuts or chopped pecans.