Nuts: Nutritional Powerhouses for Health

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Nuts are considered to be nutritional powerhouses, as they are packed with heart-healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and proteins (i.e. omega-3 fatty acids, fibre and more.) They will also help you feel full and suppress the appetite, which will prevent you from overeating. However, some nuts are also high in calories, so while they’re certainly a better snack to indulge in than that chocolate bar or bag of potato chips, they should still be consumed in moderation.

When it comes to nuts, some are healthier than others – with almonds, cashews and pistachios being some of the healthiest, especially if you’re looking to maintain a healthy weight. The lowest-calorie nut is the almond. Eating approximately 25 almonds gives you 6 grams of protein and just 14 grams of fat, and they’re great for disease prevention. Coming in at a close second is the cashew and pistachio. Consuming around 20 cashews means you’ll be getting 5 grams of protein and 13 grams of fat, while a whopping 50 pistachios is equal to 6 grams of protein and 13 grams of fat. Pistachios are great for improving gut health, as well as lowering cholesterol, promoting weight loss, and improving eye health. If you’re looking to improve your heart health, walnuts are a great nut to include in your diet as they contain high levels of ALA (Alpha Linoleic Acid), a type of omega-3 fatty acid that is found in plants and great for things like reducing inflammation as well as oxidation of the arteries. Health researchers recommend eating around 8 to 10 walnuts per day to reap the benefits. For brain health, while higher in calories (with one ounce equaling around 170 calories), peanuts are also a good nut to consider including in your diet. They’re high in folate, which can help protect against cognitive decline. They’re also a great choice for vegetarians – especially pregnant woman, as folate can help protect unborn babies from developing birth defects. Peanuts are also high in vitamin E.

As for the unhealthier nuts, macadamia nuts and pecans are high atop the list of ones you should try to stay away from. Macadamia nuts can contain anywhere from 17 to 22 grams of fat per serving, giving them a much higher calorie count than other nuts, at 204 calories per ounce. They’re also lower in protein and nutrients. Similarly, pecans can be bad for you if too many are consumed. They’re also commonly used in baked goods like cake, cookies, and pecan pie – meaning when you’re consuming pecans, you’re also going to be consuming high amounts of sugar, which isn’t good for your health.

When shopping for nuts at the grocery store, you also need to pay close attention to what you’re buying. Many nuts come canned and salted, as well as with added flavour – i.e. honey roasted nuts, Cajun nuts, BBQ nuts, etcetera. I recommend avoiding nuts that come pre-packaged or are roasted in oil – as many store-bought nuts are often roasted in hydrogenated fat, or unhealthy omega-6 fats, which can deplete them of their nutrients. Store-bought nuts can also be high in sodium – and too much sodium can have negative effects on your health. Instead, buy nuts that are raw. You can typically find them in the bulk section at the grocery store.