Food & Nutrition
Go Nuts! Health Benefits of Nuts
The Perfect Snack
According to the Mayo Clinic, nuts can be credited with several health benefits, including lowered cholesterol and heart disease prevention. They’re tasty, filling, and the perfect on-the-go snack.
Click through the slideshow to learn more about the many health benefits of nuts, and what you need to know about particular varieties.
Nuts for Nuts
There is more than one way to incorporate nuts into your diet. You can eat them by themselves out of a can or a bag, or add them to salads, cereal, oatmeal, or other foods. You can even try them in their butter forms!
According to the Mayo Clinic, almost any type of nut is a nutritious powerhouse—but some nuts specifically contain nutrients and fats that are considered heart-healthy.
Almonds are high in monounsaturated fat, the kind that is found in olive oil and has been linked to a reduction of heart disease. They also have a high concentration of potassium, which can help regulate your blood pressure. In their natural state, they contain no sodium.
According to the Mayo Clinic, walnuts are among the nuts that appear to be very heart healthy.
Researchers from Penn State found that pistachios are high in lutein, beta-carotene, and gamma-tocopherol—and they can also increase your antioxidant levels if you suffer from high cholesterol.
Lutein is found in leafy green vegetables and is an important contributor to healthy skin and vision, and protects against LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. Beta-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A) and gamma-tocopherol (a form of vitamin E) are both critical to your inflammatory pathways.
According to the journal Nutrients, the consumer definition of nuts includes peanuts. Although peanuts technically are legumes or ground nuts, they are commonly identified as a nut. This is partly because they have a similar nutrient profile to tree nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts. Like tree nuts, peanuts contain high amounts of vegetable protein and are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.
Walnuts rank above pistachios, peanuts, and other nuts according to Joe Vinson, Ph.D., professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, most people don’t eat them as often as they should.
Dr. Vinson says a handful of walnuts contain almost twice as many antioxidants as an equivalent amount of most other nuts. It only takes about seven walnuts to get the benefits of antioxidants that are two to 15 times as powerful as vitamin E.
This nutrient-dense nut contains more than 19 vitamins and minerals and provides more than 2.7 grams of fiber with each serving.
What’s more, eating a handful of pecans a day may delay the progression of age-related motor neuron degeneration such as Lou Gehrig’s disease, reports the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS). UMHS also notes that pecans contain the highest antioxidant capacity among all nuts.
Hazelnuts, also called filbert nuts, rank at or near the top in many health categories. They are a good source of protein, vitamin E, fiber, and B vitamins—and they have the highest concentration of folate out of any tree nut, according to UMHS.
UMHS also reports that hazelnuts—along with pine nuts and almonds—have among the lowest percentages of saturated fat.
Grab a Handful
Nuts sometimes get a bad rap because of their high fat content. But remember: the fatty acids in nuts are healthy fats. Not to mention, nuts are high in other important nutrients including protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Nuts not only taste great, but eating them has been linked with a decreased body mass index (BMI) and a lowered risk of heart disease, according to UMHS. So pack a healthy snack of nuts, and reap the benefits!