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Health Nuts: Eating Nuts May Be Healthful

Image for nut article 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.

Get Your Nut Nutrition

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.

NutCaloriesProtein Total Fat
Grams(g)
Saturated Fat
Grams (g)
Monounsaturated Fat
Grams(g)
Polyunsatured Fat
Grams(g)
Almonds160614193.5
Brazil nuts1904194.577
Cashews160413382
Hazelnuts1804171.5132
Macadamias2002223.5170.5
Pecans2003202126
Pine Nuts1904201.55.510
Pistachios1606131.574
Walnuts1904181.52.513

Source: Nut Health

Protein

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

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.

Other Nutrients in Nuts

Nuts contain many other nutrients, such as:

  • Potassium—For example, one ounce of almonds has 208 milligrams of potassium, a mineral needed for organ proper function.
  • Selenium—Brazil nuts have an especially high amount of the mineral selenium, which acts as an antioxidant.
  • Folate—Nuts like walnuts have this B vitamin, which plays a role in reducing the risk of neural tube birth defects in babies.
  • Plant sterols—Plant sterols, found in peanuts, may help to reduce cholesterol levels.

Make Room for Nuts

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.

Add Nuts to Your Diet

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:

RESOURCES:

American Heart Association
http://www.heart.org

Eat Right—American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
http://www.eatright.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Dietitians of Canada
http://www.dietitians.ca

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

REFERENCES:

Arginine. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/biomedical-libraries/natural-alternative-treatments. Updated August 2013. Accessed March 29, 2017.

Bernstein AM, Sun Q, et al. Major dietary protein sources and risk of coronary heart disease in women. Circulation. 2010;122(9):876-883.

Dietary interventions for cardiovascular disease prevention. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116873/Cardiovascular-disease-prevention-overview. Updated September 5, 2016. Accessed March 29, 2017.

Dreher ML. Pistachio nuts: Composition and potential health benefits. Nutr Rev. 2012;70(4):234-240.

Let's go nuts. Harv Health Lett. 2011;36(3):3.

Nut health. Nut Health website. Available at: http://nuthealth.org. Accessed March 29, 2017.

Nuts for nutrition. University of Nebraska—Lincoln UNL Food website. Available at: http://food.unl.edu/fnh/nuts-for-nutrition. Accessed March 29, 2017.

Ros E. Health benefits of nut consumption. Nutrients. 2010;2(7):685-682.

Ros E, Tapsell LC, et al. Nuts and berries for heart health. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2010;12(6):397-406.

Sabate J, Wien M. Nuts, blood lipids and cardiovascular disease. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2010;19(1):131-136.

Walnuts and arteries. Harv Heart Lett. 2010;20(9):6.

Last reviewed March 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP  Last Updated: 3/9/2015