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You are what you eat. You may think you are a health nut—you eat whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables. However, if you avoid nuts because they are high in fat, you may not be as healthy as you can be. Nuts have traditionally received a bad reputation for their high-fat and high-calorie content, especially from people watching their weight. Yet, there are many reasons to include nuts in your diet—one of which is the very fat that made you avoid them.
Nuts contain mostly “good,” unsaturated fat—the type that is believed to help improve heart health. Most Americans consume too much “bad,” saturated fat, which is found mostly in meats and high-fat dairy products. Research has shown that reducing saturated fat and increasing unsaturated fat can lower bad LDL cholesterol levels.
There are 2 types of unsaturated fat: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Nuts contain both types of unsaturated fat and only small amounts of saturated fat, in varying amounts depending on the type of nut. Some research suggests that one type of polyunsaturated fat, called omega-3 fatty acids, may offer benefits like a reduced risk of heart disease. Walnuts, almonds, and other nuts contain omega-3 fatty acids.
This table shows the calories, protein, and fat in a 1-ounce serving (28 grams) of nuts.
Source: Nut Health
As the above table shows, nuts are a great source of protein as well. Nuts are also rich in one amino acid (a building-block of protein) called arginine, which may be linked to heart health benefits.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that is important for normal development of nerves and cells in the lungs and blood. Nuts like peanuts and almonds can help you to reach your dietary requirement of vitamin E.
Nuts contain many other nutrients, such as:
Of course, while nuts have many benefits, you still need to make room for them in your diet by cutting down on calories from other foods or drinks. Check out these 10 foods and drinks you could skip today to make way for an ounce (a small handful) of nuts.
Each serving listed is approximately 180 calories, the amount in one ounce of nuts.
Nuts are easy. They do not require cooking or preparing. They are portable and even found in vending machines. And they go well with everything—from salads to desserts. Here are some ways to make your meals nuttier:
American Heart Association
Eat Right—American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Dietitians of Canada
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Last reviewed March 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP Last Updated: 3/9/2015