Table of Contents
Nuts are a bite-size fruit full of minerals, vitamins, proteins and healthy fats. This nutritional snack has an edible seed inside a hard shell. Nuts are broken up into two classifications; true nuts and culinary nuts. Peanuts, for example, are culinary nuts.
The location of where they grow — above or below ground — are an important distinction in nuts. Peanuts are groundnuts because they are actually a legume, growing underground. Tree nuts grow… in trees.
Nuts can then be further broken into four classifications – true nuts, gymnosperm seeds, angiosperm seeds and drupes.
True nuts (botanical nuts): Nuts that don’t have to be opened to release seeds. Examples include chestnuts and acorns.
Gymnosperm seeds: Pine nuts are one example of the type of nuts without enclosed seeds.
Angiosperm seeds: The seeds are enclosed in a larger fruit, such as the peanut.
Drupes: A nut with the seed inside of a fleshy shell. Walnuts and almonds are two examples of drupes.
The right nuts are an important staple of a healthy diet. They have been shown to lower heart disease and risk of diabetes. Consumed in moderation, nuts are a popular snack in weight loss programs because they are high in protein and give you a sense of being full faster than unhealthy snacks.
While nuts are generally considered healthy, some can wreak havoc on your diet. Nuts that are processed or high in sugar are two types of nuts to avoid.
But first, let’s get into WHY nuts are so healthy.
What Makes a Nut Healthy For You?
Nuts have a high concentration of proteins, fibers and healthy fats. They also have a significant amount of calcium, which keeps your bones strong, and carotene. Carotene promotes eye health and helps prevent cataracts, among other vision problems.
The levels of omega-3 and unsaturated fatty acids in nuts have been known to boost brain function and increase heart health. They are great fuel for weight loss and metabolism. Lowered cholesterol is another possible benefit from including nuts in your recipes and meals.
The plentiful nutrients found in healthy nuts can reduce the risk of cancer or heart disease. Omega-3, unsaturated fats and fiber are just three ingredients in nuts that have a fair amount of success in preventing heart disease. This is because the wide variety of nutrients keep the arteries of the heart from becoming clogged.
Deficiencies in micronutrients and macronutrients can cause a serious decline in health. The body needs a lot of macronutrients to keep the body healthy, but only smaller amounts of micronutrients. Nuts have a high density (wide variety) of both micro and macronutrients.
Macronutrients include fats, protein and sugar. Vitamins such as calcium and vitamin E are examples of micronutrients. The healthiest nuts are the ones with a high content of both types of nutrients.
Keeping a balanced diet requires you to follow the recommended intake for fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Saturated fats, on the other hand, should be less than 10% of your diet. Nutritious nuts have low amounts of saturated fats. Not all fats are bad, but it’s important to be aware of your overall fat consumption.
Another reason nuts are so healthy is their high fiber content.
People, in general, don’t include enough fiber in their meals. Chestnuts are especially rich in fiber and can help control weight and the regulation of insulin.
Nuts contain large amounts of infection-fighting antioxidants. Your body is constantly in danger of being damaged by the natural oxidation of the cells. Antioxidants are essential in regulating the oxidation process and keeping your cells functioning.
If you’re looking for an easy, tasty way to increase your heart health, add nuts to your diet.
But only the right kind of nuts.
What are those?
Read on for the healthiest nuts and ones to avoid.
The Healthiest Nuts You Can Eat
We are bombarded daily in television and print ads about counting calories and eating foods with low calories. Yes, it is important to eat calories in moderation, but calories aren’t the ONLY thing we need to be concerned about in our food. How many nutrients are found in the food is just as important as how many calories.
So, when it comes to ranking the healthiest nuts, a big factor is how many healthy nutrients you can get from such a small food. Here are 5 of the healthiest nuts:
Pecans offer significant amounts of heart health benefits, the biggest being lower cholesterol. They contain several rich vitamins and minerals, including zinc, copper and manganese. Adding just one ounce of pecans to your diet gives you 2 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber. One ounce of pecans is just 195 calories.
Essential micronutrients such as vitamin E and riboflavin are found in almonds. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps prevent cellular damage in the body. Riboflavin, also known as B2, helps break down carbohydrates into energy, which can keep your belly fat down.
In addition to micronutrients, almonds contain high amounts of fiber and protein. A handful of almonds (one ounce) provides you with 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber, with just 161 calories.
Peanuts roasted in oil are extremely unhealthy. However, dry-roasted peanuts are rich in vitamins and minerals, such as phosphorus. Phosphorus acts in sync with calcium to strengthen bones.
Peanuts can reduce the risk of type-2 Diabetes and heart disease. One ounce of peanuts contains 6 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber and 164 calories.
Recent research has shown that walnuts can improve the functions of the brain. The walnut is rich in Omega-3, which is known to help improve your mood and concentration. And that’s not all! Omega-3 are fatty acids that have amazing health benefits for the heart, such as lowering blood pressure and preventing heart disease.
Walnuts have 183 calories and provide 4 grams of protein, plus 1 gram of fiber.
Pistachios are seeds of the pistachio tree. Once you crack the small shell, the inner seed has an abundance of healthy vitamins and minerals. Vitamin B6, phosphorus and copper are just a few of the micronutrients found in pistachios.
The seeds from the tree nut can maintain blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol. One ounce of pistachios includes 6 grams of protein, 161 calories and 2 grams of fiber.
Which Nuts Should You Eat Less Of?
The healthiest nuts are those that are natural. Therefore, the least healthy nuts that you should avoid are ones that are processed and full of sugar and salt additives. The mixed nuts and the nuts with seasoning or added flavor are full of unhealthy sugars and salts. Any health benefits the nuts had are pretty much null and void after being processed.
Roasted nuts are hugely popular and also hugely unhealthy. Why? They are roasted in oil and fat. Even nut butters (peanut butter, etc.) can be bad for your health if they contain large amounts of sugar and oils. If you want to buy nut butters, opt for the organic or raw quality brands, especially those made without sugar.
Can Too Many Nuts be Bad for You?
Nuts have enormous health benefits, but yes, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Guess what else nuts have? Calories. Of course, the body needs calories as fuel, but too many will start to affect the size of your waist. Portion control is important – a handful of nuts is enough to fill you up. If it’s not, you might be lacking nutrients from other food sources.
Nuts processed by adding sugars or sodium are very bad for you. The extra ingredients might taste great, but they don’t benefit your health.
Just adding nuts into your diet isn’t enough, though. You also need to balance your diet and exercise to get the full effect of the healthy benefits nuts can offer.
Best Times to Eat Nuts
Believe it or not, there are consuming nuts at certain times of the day allows you to maximize the health benefits found in nuts. Even more surprising, different nuts are better eaten at different times of the day. For example:
Almonds are best eaten in the morning after peeling the skin off. The skin of almonds can decrease the nutrients your body absorbs. Soaking almonds overnight makes the skin easier to remove in the morning and allows you the full impact of the nutritious nut.
Pistachios are a great nut for an afternoon energy boost. Rich in fats, the pistachio increases your stamina, giving you that final push to make it through your work day.
Avoid nuts high in sugar at night, as they will interfere with your rest. Walnuts, on the other hand, can be taken at night for digestion assistance from the high amount of fiber in the nut.
Walnuts, pistachios and almonds are some of the healthiest nuts you can eat. Conversely, roasted nuts or nuts with additives, such as chocolate, can be very unhealthy and should be avoided as much as possible.
Grab a handful and go nuts! Let us know which one you're nutty about in the comments down below!