Healthy nuts: 10 nuts that are good for you
It is no secret that nuts are great for your health, but which nuts are healthiest and what exactly makes them so healthy? Here, we explore ten of the healthiest nuts on the market today!
High in calories and loaded with fat and protein, nuts are a true superfood. Numerous studies have shown that nuts can reduce blood fat levels, and even support weight loss.
But, which nut is best? Just about every nut is good for you – each has its own unique benefits – but what is perfect for one person is not necessarily ideal for another. So here are ten great candidates for “Healthiest Nut”!
What makes nuts so healthy
Listing all the health benefits of nuts is no mean feat! Nuts are a nutritional powerhouse: they are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, filled with vitamins E, B, and C, and loaded with countless minerals like zinc, iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. They also contain nutrients that support memory and concentration, like choline, lecithin, and antioxidants. Nuts can also help protect against many cardiovascular diseases, like heart attacks and strokes, and can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. In fact, some studies have shown that nuts may lower the risk of various types of cancer.
Health benefits of nuts:
- High in healthy fats: especially omega-3
- Rich in nutrients
- High mineral content: especially zinc, iron, and magnesium
- Contain vitamins E, B, and C
- Packed with concentration and memory-boosting nutrients such as choline and lecithin
- Loaded with antioxidants
- Reduces blood lipid levels
- Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and various types of cancer
How many nuts should I eat per day?
One portion of nuts a day is a great addition to your diet! It is difficult to define exactly what one portion is, because it depends on your dietary needs, but a handful a day is a good rule of thumb. There are a lot of ways to incorporate nuts into your day: nibble on them as a snack, incorporate them into pesto and salads, or use them as an ingredient in pastries.
Raw nuts are best, but try to avoid salted or sugared varieties, as they tend to contain high levels of sodium and sugar. Roasted nuts also lose a lot of their health benefits. When roasted, a nut’s fat, which contains all its nutrients, is burned off. If you prefer roasted nuts, try cooking them at home without any additional fat.
With all this in mind, here are ten nuts, each with their own, unique health benefits.
You are probably very familiar with walnuts, and for good reason! Walnuts are extremely healthy and rich in valuable nutrients. Just 100g of raw walnuts contains about 3mg of vitamin C alone, which supports a healthy immune-system. Walnuts also contain a good mix of vitamin E, polyphenols, and folic acid, as well as omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids. Because there are so many unsaturated fatty acids, and so few saturated fatty acids, in the walnut, it is great for your heart and can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The walnut is a true superfood, with antioxidant properties that further protect you against cardiovascular disease, and keep you feeling full. What is more, you can easily grow a walnut tree in your garden!
Hazelnuts are another fan-favourite. This nut is small in package but big in flavour. Filled with healthy fats like lecithin and choline that improve nerve function and memory, and packed with omega-9 fatty acids that keep nerve cells working properly, hazelnuts are not only tasty, but very nutritious! There are different species of hazelnut tree (Corylus), each producing a different hazelnut variety, so there is plenty of choice!
While the beech tree’s nut (Fagus sylvatica) is hardly used in food today, during the mid-20th Century, beechnuts were an important supplement across Europe. Composed of 40% fat and loaded with numerous minerals like zinc and iron, it is no wonder that the beechnut was so popular. However, do remember that raw beechnuts release toxic prussic acid when digested. So be sure to roast, broth or bake beechnuts before eating them.
Contrary to popular belief, almonds are not nuts but hard fruit. They are rich in calcium, magnesium, and potassium, and are filled with choline, which promotes concentration and memory, and reduced fat storage in the liver. Similar to beechnuts, raw almonds should never be eaten as they produce prussic acid when consumed. Nowadays, almonds are sourced from large farms in California that use a lot of water. As such, almonds are not always the most environmentally-friendly nut. If possible, reach for locally sourced almonds, such as those from wine-growing regions in central and southern Europe.
5. Hemp nut
Hemp nuts, commonly referred to as hemp seeds, are some of the healthiest nuts available. Though hemp seeds do come from the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa) they contain no psychoactive ingredients, so there is no chance of becoming intoxicated! Hemp seeds contain the perfect ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, and have every amino acid a human could need. Hemp seeds are also high in protein (up to 24%). Peeled, they are perfect in cereal, topped on bread, or nibbled as a snack. If you are environmentally conscious, look for hemp nuts that are grown in Central Europe.
Unlike other nuts, peanuts (Arachis hypogeae) do not come from trees, but grow underground. While peanuts contain relatively little omega-3 acid compared to other nuts, they are rich in protein and magnesium. What is more, peanut skin is not only edible but rich in antioxidants.
7. Brazil nuts
Brazil nuts come from the fruit of the Brazil tree (Bertholletia excelsa), which grows in the tropical rainforests of South America. Brazil nuts are technically seeds, but, in any case, are filled with minerals. Brazil nuts contain traces of natural, radioactive substances, so portioning is crucial. Eat no more than two Brazil nuts a day to be safe. Do bear in mind that Brazil nuts are often sourced from the Amazon rainforest, and harvesting them poses a threat to the fragile ecosystem.
Similar to the almond tree, the cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale) does not produce nuts. Though not technically a nut, the cashew has a high amount of the essential amino acid tryptophane. Tryptophane plays an important role in producing serotonin, best known as the happiness hormone. However, in comparison to other nuts, cashews are relatively expensive. This is partially due to its complex cultivation, from which only one cashew nut is produced per fruit. Cashews are often cultivated in tropical regions, under inhumane working conditions. Choosing Fairtrade labels is best.
Though pistachio trees (Pistacia vera) are traditionally grown and cultivated in Iran, areas of California, Greece, and Turkey have become key pistachio producers. Pistachios are particularly rich in potassium and have a high-fat content (around 52%). As a snack between meals and in salads, these flavourful green seeds can add a delicious moment to your day, though you will have to peel them first!
10. Macadamia nuts
Macadamia nuts are grown from two different species of macadamia (Macadamia integrifolia and Macadamia tetraphylla). Due to their intense and complex harvesting process, macadamia nuts are among the most expensive nuts on our list. With their intense flavour, health benefits, and incredibly high omega-9 content, these nuts are still well worth the investment. Though originally from Australia, these nuts are now grown all around the world.
For a conscious and sustainable purchase, we recommend thinking local. Walnuts and hazelnuts, for example, are grown in the UK.
If you are interested in finding out more about other healthy foods, read about them in our articles on superfoods and fruits with high vitamin C content.