10 best nuts and their health benefits

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The health benefits of nuts are many and unquestionable. They are good sources of dietary fibre and a wide range of essential nutrients. Among their health benefits, nuts help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, help lower LDL cholesterol levels, help manage inflammation and maintain the normal structure of body cells, and help in protecting against coronary artery disease. So what are the ten best nuts?

The Best Nuts

The ten best nuts are almond, brazil nut, cashew, hazel nut, macadamia, peanuts, pecans, pine nut, pistachio, and walnuts. A detailed description of the health benefits of each follows.

Almonds

Almonds

Almond, which technically is not a nut, but the seed of the fruit of the almond tree, is nevertheless highly and widely regarded as one of the best nuts for its many health benefits. With its high levels of healthy unsaturated fatty acids – fiber, phytosterols, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants – almonds can reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attack, cancer and diabetes.

One serving of almonds – approximately 28 grams – contains approximately:

  • Calories: 161
  • Fat: 14 grams
  • Protein: 6 grams
  • Carbs: 6 grams
  • Fiber: 3.5 grams
  • Vitamin E: 37% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 19% of the RDI

Among the health benefits of almonds is its assistance in fighting different types of cancer. It is a great source of vitamin E and manganese, two nutrients essential for prostate health. Prostate cancer ranks as the most common cancer in Jamaica and the leading cause of cancer-related deaths. A study, published in 2015 in Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation, found that individuals who consumed higher quantities of almonds, peanuts, and walnuts had lower risk of breast cancer.

Manganese aids reproductive health, and an inadequate intake of that nutrient may result in erectile dysfunction, a low sperm count, and low libido. Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, is important for strong immunity and healthy skin and eyes. One handful of almonds (approximately 28.35 grams) represents 35% of the required daily amount (RDA) of vitamin E and 13% of our daily protein needs.

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Almonds are a good source of calcium, magnesium, and zinc, three very important minerals for maintaining good health. Calcium and magnesium help sustain healthy bones while zinc is essential for cell division and growth and provide support to the body’s immune system. Magnesium is vital for healthy nerves and muscles.

Brazil Nuts

brazil nuts

Brazil nuts, one of the best nuts, are known for their high fat content, which is mostly monounsaturated – good fat  – but they also contain some protein and are also a good source of important nutrients such as magnesium, zinc, calcium, vitamin E and some B vitamins.

One-ounce (28-gram) of Brazil nuts contains approximately:

  • Calories: 182
  • Fat: 18 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Carbs: 3 grams
  • Vitamin E: 8% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 26% of the RDI

The health benefits of Brazil nuts include their high selenium content. Brazil nuts are, in fact, the richest known food source of this important nutrient. Selenium is an essential mineral and antioxidant that is needed daily for a healthy immune system and it helps to prevent damage to our nerves and cells. In fact, just five-six Brazil nuts a day will provide your recommended daily allowance of selenium, which is said to lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, and helps to reduce allergies and inflammation. Low selenium levels have been linked with mood-related disorders including anxiety, depression and fatigue. Magnesium is vital for healthy nerves and muscles.

Cashews

cashews

Cashew, a super food and one of the best nuts: it protects against heart disease, bolsters the body’s immune system, lowers the risk of gallstones, and helps the body fight off oxidative stress, which is associated with numerous health conditions including chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, insomnia, cancer, and more.

One ounce (28 grams) of cashews contains roughly:

  • Calories: 155
  • Fat: 12 grams
  • Carbs: 9 grams
  • Protein: 5 grams
  • Fiber: 1 gram
  • Vitamin E: 1% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 20% of the RDI

Cashew nuts have a lower fat content and a higher protein and carbohydrate content than other types of nuts. Even then, the fat that cashew nuts contain (65%) is derived primarily from oleic acid, a monounsaturated oil which lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

A quarter-cup of cashews daily provides 98 percent of your recommended daily intake of copper, a trace mineral we get in very small amounts, mainly from animal sources, such as crabs, mussels, liver and oysters. An insufficient intake of copper has been associated with poor functioning of the body’s immune system, higher risk of cardiovascular disease, increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, and impaired bone health.

Cashews are an excellent source of potent antioxidants, including vitamins E and K, and both of those vitamins help your body fight off oxidative stress.

There can be little or no doubt that cashews are among the best nuts in the world.

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts, undoubtedly one of the best nuts, are relatively high in calories – 178 calories per ounce – but a rich source of vitamin E, the B vitamin biotin, monounsaturated fats, potassium, calcium and magnesium.

One ounce (28 grams) of hazelnuts contains roughly:

  • Calories: 176
  • Fat: 9 grams
  • Carbs: 6 grams
  • Protein: 6 grams
  • Fiber: 3.5 grams
  • Vitamin E: 37% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 20% of the RDI

Hazelnuts contain phytochemicals, including flavonoids, which provide several health benefits such as reduction in the risk of cancer, heart disease, asthma, and stroke. Flavonoids may play a role in brain health also.

The high levels of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, contained in hazelnuts, help protect the heart through lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and higher levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Hazelnuts are one of the best nuts for heart health.  

Hazelnuts contain a high concentration of copper, which together with iron, enable the body to form red blood cells, help maintain healthy bones, blood vessels, nerves, and functioning of the immune system.

Macadamia

macadamia

Macadamia nuts are composed of approximately 75% fat. However, a large proportion of the fat is monounsaturated, the healthy variety. The fats contained in macadamia nuts provide a plethora of health benefits to the brain, heart, bones and teeth. They also aid weight loss, disease prevention, and help to decrease inflammation.

One ounce (28 grams) contains approximately:

  • Calories: 200
  • Fat: 21 grams
  • Carbs: 4 grams
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Fiber: 2.5 grams
  • Vitamin E: 1% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 9% of the RDI

Oleic fatty acid, one of the fatty acids present in macadamia nuts, helps keep blood pressure low, thereby decreasing the risk of stroke.

Palmitoleic, found in macadamia nuts, is omega 7, a rare but amazingly powerful fatty acid. Palmitoleic acid is known for improving gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, digestive health and inflammation response. A 2017 study found that palmitoleic fatty acid has a positive effect on blood glucose regulation and muscular sensitivity in those affected by type II diabetes. It is also known to boost the health of hair, skin, and nails. Also, it has been shown to be a major component of myelin, the fatty protective coating around neurons, making palmitoleic acid important for brain development in babies and for long-term brain health.

Macadamia are rich in both copper and thiamin and are the source of several health benefits. Copper helps to absorb and utilize iron efficiently, which in turn helps get oxygen to the brain. Thiamin, also known as vitamin B1, is essential for converting carbohydrates into energy, which, more often than not, provides the fuel for the brain to boost cognitive function and mood.

Macadamia nut oil is superior to cook with than olive oil and rapeseed oil because of its lower level of polyunsaturated fat. Macadamia oil contains more than four and a half times the amount of vitamin E as olive oil.

Macadamia is certainly one of the best nuts.

Peanuts

peanuts

Technically, peanut is a legume, and not a nut as is generally believed, but are chock full with health benefits. Several studies have shown that eating peanuts regularly may extend your life.

One ounce (28 grams) of dry-roasted peanuts contains an approximately:

  • Calories: 176
  • Fat: 17 grams
  • Carbs: 5 grams
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Vitamin E: 21% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 11% of the RDI

A study carried out at Vanderbilt Medical School on the diet of 72,000 Americans and 135,000 Chinese found that peanuts accounted for 50% of nuts eaten by Americans and almost all the nuts consumed by the Chinese. The team followed the participants from five to twelve years. They found that the Americans who ate the most nuts, which were predominantly peanuts, had a 21% lower risk of dying than those who ate the least. The Chinese men and women with the highest peanut consumption had a 17% lower mortality risk. Peanuts are high in protein, mono-unsaturated fat and the antioxidant resveratrol, thought to carry anti-inflammatory, heart-healthy, and anti-cancer properties, and aid longevity.

Pecans

pecan

The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reports that pecans contain more antioxidants than any other tree nut, and rank among the top 15 foods with the highest levels of antioxidants according to the USDA. One of the best nuts, they are also chock full of vitamins, and minerals such as manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium, which provides several health benefits.

One ounce (28 grams) of pecans contains approximately:

  • Calories: 196
  • Fat: 20 grams
  • Carbs: 4 grams
  • Protein: 3 grams
  • Fiber: 2.5 grams
  • Vitamin E: 2% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 8% of the RDI

Pecan nuts contain oleic acid, a monounsaturated oil which lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and breast and colon cancer. Pecans are also rich in magnesium which is known for its anti-inflammatory benefits, such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and other inflammatory ailments. Pecans are one of the best-known dietary sources of vitamin E, which is considered important for good skin health and is also one of the essential vitamins that help maintain and enhance good eye health by reducing macular degeneration and symptoms associated with cataract development. Vitamin E is also associated with reduced risk of fatty liver diseases, cataracts, type 2 diabetes, and even certain types of cancer. 

Pine Nuts

pine nuts

Pine nuts contain more protein than any other nut, placing them among the best nuts. In addition, they are a good source of potassium, iron, copper, zinc, and magnesium. The combined effects of magnesium and potassium produce a strong, healthy heartbeat, lower blood pressure and improve blood flow.

One ounce (28 grams) of pine nuts contains approximately:

  • Calories: 191
  • Fat: 19 grams
  • Carbs: 3.7 grams
  • Protein: 3.9 gram
  • Fiber: 1.1 gram
  • Sugars: 1 gram
  • Sodium: 0.6 mg

Pine nuts may help in weight loss. Research has shown that fatty acids derived from pine nuts lead to the release of high amounts of cholecystokinin, an appetite-suppressing hormone. They are also known as an energy booster, containing nutrients including monounsaturated fat, protein and iron, that help boost energy.

Monounsaturated fat, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin K and manganese, contained in pine nuts, are known to support heart health.

Pine nuts contain a plethora of antioxidants, including vitamins A, B, C, D and E, and lutein, which are believed to provide health benefits such as helping to control the ageing process by combating free radicals, the main cause of age-related deterioration.

Pine nuts contain lutein, a carotenoid that may help improve eye vision by warding off eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration.

Pistachio

pistachio and its health benefits

Pistachios are rich in beneficial nutrients, providing valuable amounts of minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc, and are the richest source of potassium of all nuts. Two ounces (56 grams) of pistachio nuts contain more potassium than a medium-size banana. Both magnesium and potassium protect against heart disease.

A one-ounce (28-gram) serving of pistachios contains about:

  • Calories: 156
  • Fat: 12.5 grams
  • Carbs: 8 grams
  • Protein: 6 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Vitamin E: 3% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 8% of the RDI

Pistachios contain two compounds that provide the body with significant benefits. Alpha-linoleic acid is a beneficial type of omega-3 fatty acid that are only found in animal sources. Therefore, pistachios provide vegetarians and vegans with the omega-3 fatty acids their bodies need. Oleanolicacid has anti-inflammatory effects.

Pistachios also contain Vitamin B6, which has several health benefits. Failure to get enough vitamin B6 has been associated with elevated risk of cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and cognitive dysfunction.

Pistachio is loved by many and one of the best nuts around.

Walnuts

walnuts

Walnuts are chock-full of nutriments: polyunsaturated fatty acids of both the omega-3 and omega-6 families, monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, serotonin, Vitamin B6, phosphorous, protein, and fibre, the sources of many health benefits.

A one-ounce (28-gram) serving of walnuts contains approximately:

  • Calories: 182
  • Fat: 18 grams
  • Carbs: 4 grams
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Vitamin E: 1% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 11% of the RDI

Walnuts are the main “non-fish” source of alpha-linolenic acid, which is transformed into omega-3 fatty acids in our bodies. Omega-3, generally missing or insufficient in our diets, can help lower the risk of heart disease by improving blood flow, arthritis, and certain types of cancer. Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids are associated with an anti-inflammatory response in the body and, given their high concentration in the brain, may also support cognitive health and protect against dementia.

Walnuts are rich in antioxidants, particularly ellagic acid, which are said to help neutralize free radicals in our bodies, thus boosting overall health.

Walnuts also contain high levels of serotonin, a brain chemical thought to play a role in appetite, the emotions, and motor, cognitive, and autonomic functions. Serotonin seems to play a key role in maintaining mood balance: low serotonin levels have been linked to depression. It also helps to regulate various other functions, such as sleep and sexual desire. New research has uncovered another role played by serotonin: boosting learning speed.

Our bodies use B vitamins to convert the food we eat into the energy we need to function. Together the eight B vitamins are important for metabolism, brain and liver function, growth, and building blood cells, as well as for maintaining healthy hair, skin, and vision. More specifically, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) — one of the eight — plays key roles in keeping the brain and nervous system functioning properly, says Sonya Angelone, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Vitamin B6 is involved in production of hemoglobin, the protein in blood that carries oxygen throughout the body.”

Walnuts are one of the best loved and best nuts available.

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