Roasted nuts are a tasty snack, and as a bonus, they're also quite nutritious. Sadly, nuts have a bad reputation as being too high in fat. Those poor nuts deserve a second glance, though. Most of the fat in nuts is healthy fat, and the roasting process might change the taste of the nuts slightly, but it won't change the good fats to trans fats. That's good news because many yummy options exist to include nuts into your daily diet.
Nuts can be dry-roasted or roasted with oil. Dry-roasted nuts are exposed to heat, but they don't contain added oils like oil-roasted nuts. Most nuts contain large amounts of fat, but most of it is the heart-healthy unsaturated kind. When nuts are roasted with oil, it increases their fat content, and in certain instances, it decreases their nutritional value depending on what kind of oil you use. Nuts can also be roasted with added salt or with sweet ingredients such as honey. The nutrient content of the nuts might differ slightly from their raw counterparts, but the roasting process doesn't turn the healthy fats into unhealthy fats.
Nuts contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are the good ones. Monounsaturated fats can improve your cholesterol levels and help get rid of inflammation, a condition that can increase your risk of certain types of cancer. Almonds, hazelnuts and pecans are among your top nut sources of monounsaturated fats. Almonds contain 15.6 grams of total fat per ounce, and 9.8 grams of that are monounsaturated. Polyunsaturated fats also help lower your cholesterol and ease inflammation, but a specific type of this fat called omega-3 fatty acids also can help reduce your risk of heart disease. Walnuts are one of the best nut sources of polyunsaturated fats, and 1 ounce contains an impressive 13.4 grams.
The type of oil used to roast nuts might add trans fats. If the nuts are roasted with oils that contain partially hydrogenated oils, such as shortening, the finished product will contain trans fats. For example, if your serving of nuts is roasted with a tablespoon of shortening, it'll contain about 1 gram of trans fats, which is half of your 2-gram-per-day limit, according to MayoClinic.com. The trans fats don't come from the nuts; they come from the oil used to roast the nuts. Trans fats are particularly dangerous because they increase your cholesterol levels and raise your risk of having a heart attack. Trans fats also cause inflammation, which can damage your blood vessels and contribute to a higher risk of heart disease.
If you buy store-bought roasted nuts, read the ingredient labels. If the ingredient list includes partially hydrogenated oils, put those nuts back on the shelf because they contain trans fats. When you roast your own nuts, use oils that don't contain trans fats such as canola, olive or vegetable oil. Season the roasted nuts with cayenne pepper for a spicy flavor or cinnamon for a sweeter taste. Add roasted nuts to vegetable or pasta salads. They'll add a bit of crunch to a fruit salad. Top your favorite stir-fry recipe with roasted nuts or crush them and add them to a pie crust. Stir roasted nuts into pancake or waffle batter to boost the nutrition and add a burst of flavor.
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fats and Cholesterol: Out With the Bad, In With the Good
- MayoClinic.com: Trans Fat is Double Trouble for Your Heart Health
- AskDr.Sears: Health Nuts: Ranking Nuts
- MayoClinic.com: Dietary Fats: Know Which Types to Choose
- U.S Department of Agriculture: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.