Nuts and edible seeds are the nutrient-dense seeds of the trees or plants they’re biologically meant to propagate. In addition to being excellent sources of quality plant protein and heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, nuts and seeds provide a wide array of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Because they’re designed to nourish new trees or plants, nuts and seeds are also packed with calories -- an average 1-ounce serving of nuts or seeds provides about 175 calories.
Standard Serving Size
One ounce is the standard size for a single serving of nuts or seeds. Because most people don’t use kitchen scales to measure out exact portions, packaged nuts and seeds sometimes contain labeling that states serving size in terms of a specific quantity of kernels. A 1-ounce serving of almonds, for example, is generally about 23 nuts. More often, however, the standard 1-ounce serving is conveyed in traditional by-volume terms -- for most nuts and seeds, a 1-ounce serving is approximately 1/4 cup.
One ounce of almonds has about 163 calories, 6 grams of protein, 14 grams of fat and 3.5 grams of fiber, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. An ounce of raw pistachios, or about 49 nuts, is nutritionally comparable to a serving of almonds. It takes 14 nut halves to make a 1-ounce serving of walnuts, which has about 185 calories, 4.3 grams of protein, 18.5 grams of fat and 2 grams of fiber. The caloric, protein, fat and fiber content of Brazil nuts is very similar to that of English walnuts, but it takes just six Brazil nuts to make an ounce. One ounce of sunflower seeds, or slightly more than 1/4 cup, has 165 calories, 5.5 grams of protein 14 grams of fat and 3 grams of fiber, according to the USDA. An ounce of pumpkin seeds -- also a bit more than 1/4 cup -- is slightly lower in fiber and significantly higher in protein.
Eating a small amount of nuts or seeds each day as part of a healthy diet is thought to promote cardiovascular health. Because of their unsaturated fat and soluble fiber, nuts and seeds can help reduce high levels of damaging LDL cholesterol. Most nuts and seeds are rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant thought to inhibit plaque buildup in the arteries, thereby reducing the risk of coronary artery disease or a heart attack. Many nuts and seeds, including walnuts and flaxseed, are also high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are essential to brain health and may help protect against blood clots. For maximal benefit, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends consuming a handful of nuts each day, or about 1.5 ounces.
The USDA includes nuts and seeds as part of the protein food group, along with meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, mature legumes and soy products. According to USDA guidelines, most moderately active adults need 5 to 6.5 ounces of protein per day. Because nuts and seeds are highly concentrated in calories and nutrients, a 1-ounce serving of either counts as 2 ounces of protein toward your daily intake.
The American Heart Association recommends that most people keep their total fat consumption to less than 35 percent of their total daily caloric intake. If you get about 1,600 calories a day, you shouldn’t consume more than 62 grams of fat. Similarly, you shouldn't take in more than 86 grams of fat if you consume 2,200 calories a day. A 1-cup serving of Brazil nuts, or a bit more than four times the standard 1-ounce serving size, contains more than 88 grams of fat.
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Foods List
- MayoClinic.com: Nuts and Your Heart: Eating Nuts For Heart Health
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: How Much Food From the Protein Foods Group Is Needed Daily?
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: What Counts As an Ounce Equivalent In the Protein Foods Group?
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats
- American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide; Roberta Larson Duyff, M.S., R.D.
- Wellness Foods A to Z; Sheldon Margen, M.D., et al.
- Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images