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Health Benefits of Nuts

There are many health benefits to nuts.

Many people hesitate to eat nuts because they are relatively high in fat and calories, but well-established research shows that nuts are an important part of a healthy diet. In fact, eating nuts can benefit your heart and actually help you lose weight. While all nuts are nutritious, some nuts have greater amounts of heart-healthy nutrients than others.

Healthy Fat In Nuts

Most of the fat in nuts is unsaturated fat—the kind that is good for your heart and can reduce bad LDL cholesterol levels. Nuts are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of essential fatty acid that tends to be lacking in many American diets. Among other benefits, omega-3s can help to reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol and improve heart health by preventing unsafe heart rhythms. While fatty fish like salmon are the best sources of omega-3s, nuts are among the richest plant-based sources of this nutrient.

Protein And Arginine

Nuts are an excellent source of protein. For example, a one-ounce serving of almonds, cashews or pistachios—about one handful—contains 160 calories and five to six grams of protein. The protein in nuts gives you long-term energy and can help you feel full longer, making a great addition to your breakfast and a healthy snack choice.

Nuts also contain an amino acid called arginine, a nutrient that may increase the flexibility of your arteries and help to prevent blood clots. Arginine is also thought to boost immunity and improve sexual health in men and women.

Other Nutrients In Nuts

Additional heart-enhancing and weight-busting nutrients in nuts include:

  • Fiber: Among its many benefits, fiber has been shown to reduce cholesterol and lower your risk of diabetes. Fiber also helps fill you up, so that you can eat less and feel satisfied.
  • Vitamin E: This is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect your body against disease-causing free radicals and may reduce the build-up of arterial plaque.
  • Plant sterols: These are naturally-occurring substances in nuts (especially peanuts) that help lower cholesterol.
  • Calcium, selenium (another antioxidant) and folate:These are other important nutrients present in nuts. Folate, which is found in walnuts in particular, is crucial for healthy neural tube development in babies.

Which Nuts Are Best?

All nuts can be healthful additions to your diet. It is best to choose raw or dry-roasted options rather than those covered with salt, sugar, oil or chocolate. If you are looking for the lowest-calorie nuts, almonds, cashews and pistachios are your best bets, at 160 calories per ounce. When compared to other nuts, walnuts have the greatest number of antioxidants, but every nut can contribute its own particular blend of nutrients to your diet. Brazil nuts, for instance, are particularly rich in selenium. Peanuts, while technically legumes, are also especially healthy.

How To Add Nuts To Your Diet

Sprinkle nuts on your breakfast cereal, or add a tablespoon of peanut butter to your oatmeal. Add nuts to your salads and cooked vegetables, and try mixing equal parts chopped nuts and breadcrumbs when breading fish or chicken. Grab a handful as a nutritious and energy-packed alternative to another snack. No matter which nuts you choose or how you decide to incorporate them into your day, you can feel good about eating nuts.