Bowl of Mixed Nuts

Most nuts are bite-sized, but they are a real powerhouse of nutrition that is filled with heart-friendly fats, vitamins, proteins, and minerals. They are some of nature's best foods, and they show that good things often come in small packages!

Nuts are rich sources of calories and fats; a handful of nuts can help you stave off hunger until dinner. This article intends to throw some light on the nuts that are best suited for your health. Nuts are not only just good snacks, they help our heart, eyes and other vital organs.

The results revealed in a Loma Linda University Study from 2009 showed that women who eat nuts tend to weigh much less than those who do not eat them. Nut eaters also had higher levels of good cholesterol and showed natural resistance against inflammation.

Nuts with Lesser Calories

Almonds are one of the lowest-calorie nuts with about 160 calories per ounce. An ounce of almonds has about 6 grams of protein and 14 grams of fat. Similarly, an ounce of cashews and pistachios have similar nutritional values. These nuts, when consumed in moderation, form a healthy addition to your diet.

Nuts are naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids; fiber and protein that make you feel full and control your appetite. However low the calorie content, nuts should be consumed raw or dry roasted. Always avoid using packaged or oil roasted nuts. Roasted nuts are very often found to have lost their nutritional value as they are heated in omega-6 fats or hydrogenated fats that are termed unhealthy. (Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics)

The Goodness of Almonds

Almonds are a clear favorite with most nut eaters. They are particularly rich in calcium and are often termed as the best overall food among all the nuts. Apart from that, they are rich in vitamin E, magnesium, potassium and fiber. Antioxidants present in almonds help fight inflammation, lung cancer and cognitive decline associated with aging.

The vitamin E present in these nuts is known to bond itself within the cell membranes and protect us against free-radical molecules that promote aging of our skin. The fiber content in almonds acts as a natural blockage that reduces the absorption of excess fat by our body from these nuts. (Source: The British Journal of Nutrition)

Apart from removing ‘bad’ cholesterol from our body, almonds are also known to clean up the colon. The natural oils and rich fiber content in these nuts nourish the lining of our digestive tract. Almonds are a rich source of bone building calcium.

You can consume them raw, slivered, toasted, or coated with flavors such as soy sauce, wasabi or lime ‘n chili. You can fine grind them using a food processor and sprinkle the powder over casseroles as the bread crumbs. Use almond butter instead of peanut butter on the toast or add coarsely chopped almond nuts to turkey stuffing or roast chicken.

Pistachios

Each pistachio nut has only three calories, but when you shell them, they help to slow down your calorie consumption. These nuts have lutein and zeaxanthin, which are relatives of beta-carotene. These components may help in reducing the risk of macular degeneration associated with aging, which is known to be a major problem in Americans aged over 65.

Brazil Nuts and Pecans

Brazil nuts are a rich source of selenium. This mineral builds our immunity, and helps to fight against prostate cancer and such other diseases. Use them sparingly as too much of selenium build up is associated with type 2 diabetes risks. One nut a day is all we need to consume to have enough selenium for our body. An ounce of Brazil nuts contain 19 grams of fat, 4 grams of protein and about 190 calories of energy.

Pecans are rich in beta-sitosterol. This plant steroid is found to relieve symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or what is commonly known as enlarged prostate. They contain a high level of anti-oxidants. Gamma-tocopherol, present in these nuts, acts as an anti-oxidant that reduces unhealthy oxidation of LDL cholesterol in blood. Thus it helps us build resistance against plaque buildup in arteries and helps fight heart disease. An ounce of pecans has about 200 calories of energy and contain 3 grams of protein and 21 grams of fat.

Recent studies have shown that pecans have the capacity to lower one’s bad cholesterol and promote heart health. They are a source of many kinds of proteins and minerals. These sweet nuts are particularly rich in vitamin E, calcium, folic acid, magnesium, zinc and fiber. They can keep you fuller for longer.

Walnuts

Walnuts are sort of a super food! Their position as the best overall nut is second only to that of almonds. The anti-inflammatory benefits of consuming walnuts are particularly helpful for people suffering from arthritis and asthma. A study by Harvard in 2009 showed that people who eat walnuts gained an increased level of good cholesterol without an increase in their weight. Walnuts are rich in ALA- this is an omega-3 fatty acid that protects the heart, reduces the rate of bone breakdown and compensates for the lost bone by maintaining a constant formation. The ellagic acid present in these nuts is known for its cancer fighting properties. Getting a daily dose of walnuts will help us combat plaque build-up in heart’s arteries and also strengthen them up.

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts are also known as filberts and contain folate. This is a type of vitamin B that helps prevent heart disease, certain cancers, birth defects, and Alzheimer’s disease as well. These nuts contain an amino acid known as arginine, and magnesium which relax the blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. Hazelnuts are particularly good for dieters as they taste like a treat and keep them filled longer.

Cashews

Cashews have less fat than most other nuts. They are rich in anti-oxidants that are heart friendly and have healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in doses almost equal to that present in some fish! They are rich in copper, iron, zinc and magnesium; and they keep your energy level at a high no matter what activity you are doing.

Nuts are Good for Snacks

Nuts are so rich in calories, it is necessary that we practice controlling our portions when we use them as a snack. Pick 100 to 200 calorie packs that are available in many flavors. A blend of chestnuts, macadamia nuts, cashews and almonds are often good to have. Mixed nuts that are ideally raw and contain lesser amount of salt are the best snacks to choose. They will help you get a variety of nutrients and antioxidants. 

Last Updated: Monday, October 22, 2012