5 of the Healthiest Nuts to Add to Your Diet
It’s no secret that nuts are packed with vitamins and nutrients that can be highly beneficial for your health. Additionally, they’re full of flavor and are great on-the-go fuel, which makes them an excellent alternative to irresistible (and unhealthy) junk food snacks. So, unless you have an allergy, adding a handful of nuts to your diet every day can help promote long-term health benefits.
Nuts are easy to incorporate into main meals while also serving as tasty snacks during the day. You can bake with them, add them to your cereal, make granola — the options are endless. But with so many varieties out there, it helps to know which nuts promote certain benefits — they don’t all contain the same compounds, after all. To get started, learn more about some of the healthiest nuts out there and what makes them so great for your body.
Debunking Nut Myths
Before we dive in, let’s talk about nuts in general. Due to their relatively high caloric value, it’s common for people to assume that these nutritional powerhouses lead to weight gain. It is true that eating more calories than your body needs to maintain your current weight — no matter what you’re eating — can cause you to gain weight.
But it’s also important to note that nuts are full of unsaturated fats, which are healthier overall for your body than other types of fats such as trans fats. One 2019 study published in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health found that consuming nuts instead of junk food doesn’t lead to weight gain and helps prevent obesity. This may have something to do with the fact that healthy fats can keep you satiated, which may prevent you from overeating.
And what about sugar? Nuts do contain some naturally occurring sugar in the form of sucrose, which can raise the question about whether they’re safe for people with diabetes or those on low-carb diets to eat. However, the amount of natural sugar in nuts is generally low, and, fortunately, nuts also boast a lot of fiber. This can help keep blood sugar levels stable, making nuts a great snack for people who are watching their carb intake.
Pecans: For Energy
Pecans are high in manganese and copper, which are linked to the prevention of metabolic diseases. An ounce of pecans has just 200 calories — the same amount you’d get from a few cans of some sodas. But unlike those drinks, these nuts are also able to give you plenty of energy without the added jitters or blood sugar spike.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pecans are a top nut when it comes to flavonoids, an antioxidant that can keep your cells healthy. As they’re low in sugar and contain high amounts of vitamins A, B and E, they’re also great for improving blood sugar levels and helping you maintain focus.
Macadamia Nuts: For Heart Protection
Macadamia nuts, along with other tree nuts, may help reduce risk factors of heart disease. What's more, studies have found that macadamia nuts may help boost your body’s “good” HDL cholesterol levels due to their content of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
An ounce of macadamia nuts gives you 204 calories and two servings of your daily protein intake. They’re also a fantastic source of vitamin A, iron, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. According to the Mayo Clinic, the healthy fats in macadamia nuts can also help with lowering your insulin levels and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
Peanuts: For 30+ Essential Vitamins
Did you know that peanuts are actually classified as legumes, not nuts? The most common form of peanuts that people in the United States consume today is peanut butter. But there are plenty of reasons why you should consider adding whole peanuts to your regular diet.
Peanuts contain more than 30 essential vitamins and minerals and have the highest protein value of any nut available. A single serving of peanuts also gives you vitamin E, magnesium, folate, copper, phosphorus, niacin, manganese and fiber. They’re perfect all-rounders for that extra boost of health — but make sure you opt for the unsalted version.
Cashews: For Lower Cholesterol
Another popular pick in the nut category is definitely cashews — and for good reason. While it may sound alarming that cashews are about 30% saturated fat, much of that fat comes from stearic acid. This fatty acid can help maintain or even lower your cholesterol levels when combined with a healthy diet.
One thing that’s important to note is that you’ll want to eat your nuts plain or lightly roasted. Cashews are often available coated with salty seasonings or sugary chocolate, and these additions can quickly increase the calorie counts and levels of unhealthy fats in your snack. As a result, you might cancel out the heart-healthy benefits of eating cashews if you opt for flavored nuts.
Walnuts: For Extra Iron
Need more iron in your diet? You might benefit from adding walnuts to the menu. They’re not only full of omega-3 fats but are also very high in calcium, magnesium and potassium. They also provide your body with anti-inflammatory benefits and promote a healthy gut.
Walnuts are packed with healthy polyunsaturated fats. They may reduce the risk of heart disease and help lower your cholesterol levels, which contributes to your overall wellbeing.