Whether you’re consuming them in butters, milks, baked goods, sauces, or just out of the container, there’s no denying that nuts have taken over as one of the most popular health foods—but sometimes it’s hard to know which ones are the healthiest types of nuts.
Not only are nuts extremely versatile, but they’re also a nutritional powerhouse. They contain high levels of unsaturated fatty acids and may help reduce low-density lipoprotein (“bad”) cholesterol levels—both of which can help improve heart health. In addition to healthy fats, nuts also contain fiber, protein, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. If this wasn’t reason enough to snack on nuts, researchers from Harvard conducted a 30 year study in which they found nuts to reduce mortality by 15 percent when eaten five to six times a week, and by 20 percent when eaten more than seven times a week.
Below you’ll find the healthiest types of nuts, plus their nutritional breakdown and some suggestions for how to incorporate them into your daily diet.
All nutrition information is based on one ounce of nuts, which is roughly a handful.
Total Fat: 14.2 grams
Almonds are not only one of the most readily available nuts for snacking, but those with dairy sensitivities also tend to turn to almond milk. Almonds are packed with nutrients including fiber, riboflavin, and magnesium. Plus, a one-ounce serving contains over 30 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Vitamin E.
Try mixing almonds with dark chocolate chips and no sugar added dried fruit as a healthy trail mix or try them in this baked oatmeal.
Total Fat: 19 grams
Brazil nuts are unique because they contain very high levels of selenium. Selenium is an important nutrient for immune health, reproductive health, and metabolism. It may also help lower blood sugar levels, making brazil nuts a good snack for those with insulin sensitivities.
It’s easiest to find Brazil nuts in their true nut form—it’s not very common to find them as a butter or milk. However, if you have Brazil nuts at home, you can always try making your own milk.
Total Fat: 13.1 grams
Cashews have less fiber and protein than almonds and peanuts, but are a good source of magnesium, which plays a significant role in heart health, bone health, and energy levels.
For those that are trying to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, cashews are an extremely versatile ingredient. Because of their subtle flavor and soft texture, they’re a great substitute for dairy products. Cashew milk is one of the easiest non-dairy milks to make, or you can use them to concoct things such as cashew cheese, home-made alfredo sauce, or dairy-free desserts.
Total Fat: 17.7 grams
Hazelnuts provide a significant dose of antioxidants, with the highest concentration of antioxidants being phenolic compounds. These compounds decrease inflammation and blood cholesterol, and may even protect against cancer and improve heart health.
Unsalted hazelnuts are a great snack or you can try making your own hazelnut spread (like Nutella) from scratch.
Total Fat: 21.6 grams
Higher in calories and fat, macadamia nuts make for a long-lasting snack when you need to stay full for a longer period of time. Good for people with diabetes or other insulin-related issues, macadamia nuts have a low sugar and carb content. They also contain adequate fiber, so they’re less likely to spike blood sugar levels.
Raw macadamia nuts are the healthiest option, but you can also sprinkle them into salads or lightly roast them in the oven and swap them for croutons.
Total Fat: 14.2 grams
Peanuts are technically not a nut, they’re considered a legume because they do not grow on trees, but for brevity’s sake we’re including them on this list of the healthiest types of nuts. They tend to be higher in protein, like other legumes such as lentils and peas, with protein making up about 22-30 percent of their caloric content. They also contain high levels of biotin—good for hair, skin, nails, and during pregnancy—as well as copper, niacin, and folate.
Because peanuts are not a tree nut, they tend to be more affordable than almonds or other nuts. The next time you make pancakes, we recommend topping them with this homemade peanut butter “frosting” made with only four ingredients.
Total Fat: 21.1 grams
We’re used to seeing pecans in baked goods, but they’re delicious (and nutritious) even when not coated in sugar. Pecans are lower in carbs then other nuts, about four grams per one ounce serving, making them a great option for people who are on any type of low-carb diet. They’re also full of zinc, which is beneficial for boosting your immune system during flu season.
Total Fat: 13 grams
Pistachios are rich in vitamin B-6, which is essential for blood sugar regulation and hemoglobin production. They are also full of antioxidants, like many other nuts, but in one study it was found that the stomach is able to more easily absorb the ones from pistachios.
If you buy shelled pistachios, it may also help you practice mindful eating. You will also see how much you have eaten due to the leftover shells.
Try incorporating pistachios into some healthy baking, such as these Chocolate Chip Pistachio Scones.
Total Fat: 18.5 grams
We already know that nuts’ nutritional profile helps curb your appetite and keep you full—but in a 2017 study, researchers at Beth Israel found that walnuts actually trigger a part of your brain that regulates satiety and cravings.
In addition to helping you curb your appetite, walnuts also contain high levels of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid that helps artery health and lowers blood pressure. This is why walnuts are often linked not only to heart health, but also brain health too.
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