Nuts may be high in fat, but it's the unsaturated, heart-healthy kind. Nuts also pack a huge nutritional punch. Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein and vitamin E are just a few of the many nutrients they contain. Although all nuts are nutritional powerhouses, walnuts, almonds, pistachios and hazelnuts stand out because of their exceptional nutritional profiles. So, put down the bag of chips and start snacking on a handful of nuts.
Of all the types of nuts, walnuts have the most omega-3 fatty acids. About 1 ounce, or 14 halves, has about 90 percent of your recommended daily amount of omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids assist in protecting against heart disease and stroke. Walnuts are also super high in polyphenols and ellagic acid, both of which are antioxidants that protect against free radical damage. An extra bonus of walnuts is that they taste delicious in almost everything from salads to brownies to oatmeal.
Almonds are packed with vitamin E and monounsaturated fat. One ounce of almonds delivers half your daily amount of vitamin E, more than any other type of nut. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that protects cell membranes and maintains your skin's health. Monounsaturated fat is a healthy fat that benefits your heart health by improving your blood cholesterol levels. A serving of almonds also has about 8 percent of your daily calcium requirement and 4 grams of dietary fiber.
Pistachios have the least amount of calories and fat compared to other nuts. One ounce of shelled pistachios, or a 1/2 cup of pistachios with shells, has 160 calories and 14 grams of fat. But, don't be fooled by the low number of calories -- pistachios still have all the nutrition. Pistachios are high in plant sterols, a naturally occurring substance that can be helpful in lowering your cholesterol. In addition, pistachios provide potassium, a mineral that's essential for the proper function of all cells and tissues.
Hazelnuts not only make a yummy coffee creamer and a tasty chocolate candy, but they also provide essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Hazelnuts, or filberts, are rich in folate. Folate is a B vitamin that helps produce and maintain cells, especially in times of rapid growth, like pregnancy. Hazelnuts also contain proanthocyanidins, antioxidants that protect against free radical damage and may help prevent heart disease and cancer, and iron, a mineral necessary for healthy blood cells. One ounce, about 21 hazelnuts, has 1.3 milligrams of iron, which is 7 percent of the daily value.
- Mayo Clinic: Nuts and Your Heart: Eating Nuts for Heart Health
- Harvard Health Publications: Eating Nuts Promotes Cardiovascular Health
- MSNBC: Walnuts Have Double the Antioxidants than Other Nuts
- Medical News Today: 4 Reasons to Grab a Handful of Almonds as Your Next Snack
- Fruit and Veggies More Matters: Pistachios
- Arbor Day Foundation: Learn About the Nutritional Benefits of Hazelnuts
- Harvard School of Public Health: Antioxidants: Beyond the Hype
Hillary E. Berner is a registered dietitian and certified dietitian-nutritionist. She specializes in the areas of medical nutrition therapy, weight management, healthy cooking and behavioral health. Berner holds a Master of Science in nutrition and a Bachelor of Science in dietetics.