Most people are aware of the many health benefits that can be provided from snacking on nuts – but not all nuts are created equal. Our dietitian Melissa Meier explains which ones are best for you, and why.
If good health is on your radar, chances are you’ve got a bag (or several) of nuts somewhere in your kitchen or desk drawer – and kudos to you. They’re packed with good nutrition and offer some pretty impressive health perks.
But are all nuts created equally, or are some nuts better for you than others? Here’s the facts.
We should all be eating more nuts
Chock-full of satisfying healthy fats to support your heart and brain along with gut-loving fibre and plant-based protein, nuts are oh-so good for you. They’re packed with essential micronutrients, like the antioxidant Vitamin E and magnesium for muscle function, and for vegetarians in particular, are a valuable source of energising iron and zinc for wound healing. Plus, nuts have a prebiotic effect, meaning they act as food for the good bacteria in your gut. #Winning.
Scientific research has linked nut consumption to a host of health perks, including heart health, brain health and reduced risk of diabetes and cancer. With your waistline in mind, you’ll be pleased to hear that in contrast to popular belief, eating nuts regularly actually reduces your chances of being overweight. It sounds contradictory given that nuts are high in fat, but research has found that the energy in nuts is not all absorbed, so you’re not actually getting as many calories as you think.
Nuts are so good for you, in fact, that you’re recommended to have 30 grams every single day. Unfortunately, however, only two per cent of us meet this target – so it’s pretty clear there’s a lot of work to do in this department. Cue: the healthiest nuts you can snack on, on the reg.
The healthiest nuts
Surprise, surprise – there’s really no such thing as the healthiest nut. They’re all good for you for different reasons, so I’d encourage you to stock up on a variety and mix and match as you please. To give you a little inspo, here’s a few nutritional tidbits on some of the most popular nut varieties.
Walnuts are one of the few plant-based foods that offer omega-3 fats (the same type of healthy fats found in oily fish like salmon). Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and support heart health.
Almonds are particularly high in calcium in comparison to other nuts. They are also relatively high in Vitamin E, which plays a role in heart health.
Hazelnuts are one of the highest fibre nuts, offering around 10 per cent of your daily needs in just one small handful (30 grams). They’re a goodie for gut health.
Cashews provide the most iron and zinc of all nuts, both of which are necessary for healthy immune function.
Brazil nuts offer magnesium and phosphorous, both for bone health, and selenium, which has antioxidant properties.
Pistachios are particularly high in potassium, which is essential for muscle and nerve function. They also provide resveratrol, the same antioxidant in red wine hyped for its heart health benefits.
Macadamias offer proportionally far more monounsaturated fats than other nuts, so they support a healthy ticker.
And here’s a fun fact for your next game of trivia: despite the name, peanuts technically aren’t actually nuts – they’re a type of legume. Nonetheless, they offer a nutritional profile much the same as tree nuts, so are often grouped in the same category.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her at Honest Nutrition or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.