It’s no secret that eating nuts is good for you. Researchers have been proving their cancer-fighting, brain-enhancing, weight-reducing and cholesterol-lowering capacity for years. As long as you avoid eating them with salt and enjoy them in moderation (about a quarter cup a day) as part of a healthy diet, they could also help reduce your risk for coronary heart disease. Nuts can help keep you satiated and cut down on sweet cravings, too, but are some nuts better than others? We talked to two experts: naturopathic doctor Via Bitidis of the North Toronto Naturopathic Clinic in Toronto and community health nutritionist Carol Schnittjer of Dauphin, Manitoba to find out which nuts you should be eating and why.
Definitely a chart-topper, almonds have less fat than many nuts and are jam-packed with nutrients and disease-fighting antioxidants. With 94mg of calcium per quarter cup, they’re a great bone-builder as well. Plus, eating almonds has been proven to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. They can also help decrease blood sugar levels, providing protection against diabetes.
What’s in them: 206 calories, 18g of fat, 1.3g saturated fat, 4g fiber and 7.5g of protein in one quarter cup
Also known as filberts, hazelnuts are a good source of Vitamin E, providing 5mg of this skin-enhancing antioxidant. They boast a healthy supply of B vitamins like B6, which can help combat the effects of autism, eczema and possibly hypertension. And hazelnuts contain tryptophan, an amino acid that helps treat insomnia and depression.
What’s in them: 212 calories, 20.5 g of fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 3g fiber and 5g of protein in one quarter cup
Who knew walnuts were so good for you? They’re one of the best plant sources of essential fatty acids such as Omega 3s, they can help reduce the effects of aging on your brain, improve your cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure and decrease LDL cholesterol. That’s a lot for a little nut.
What’s in them: 164 calories, 16g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 2g fiber and 4g protein in one quarter cup
In addition to providing essential vitamins and nutrients like folate and Vitamin A, these tasty treats are high in manganese, a mineral that helps promote healthy bones and regulates blood sugar levels.
What’s in them: 171 calories, 18g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 2g fiber and 2g protein in one quarter cup
Cashews are better for you than you might think. Most of their fat content comes from the healthy, unsaturated kind and most of this fat is from oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. One 28g serving of cashews contains 10 percent of your daily requirement for iron and they’re also high in magnesium, zinc and copper, which are important for strengthening bones and fighting disease.
What’s in them: 155 calories, 12g fat, 2g saturated fat, 1g fiber, 5g protein in 28 grams
Nuts to cut back on
While these nuts are by no means unhealthy, especially when eaten in moderation, they don’t offer as many health benefits as the others mentioned above.
High in saturated fat (5g per ¼ cup serving), these are last on Schnittjer’s list of healthy nuts. They are packed with nutrients like zinc, magnesium and selenium, but the fat content is so high (218g per ¼ cup) you should limit your portion to a few nuts at a time.
Bitidis frowns upon this PB & J staple. Not only are they highly allergenic, but most commercial brands of peanut butter include unnecessary sugar, salt and fat, making them an unhealthy choice.
Candy-coated nuts of any kind should be a last resort says Schnittjer. The addition of chocolate and salt (which is often added by companies in the candying process) reduce the beneficial effects of the good fats and increase your levels of sodium.
* The nutritional information provided is for raw, husked nuts.
Ways to add nuts to your diet:
– Brown them in a skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly for three to four minutes. Don’t let them burn or you’ll lose out on the nutritive benefits as well as the scrumptious flavour. Then, add them to a stir-fry, yogurt or salad.
– Roast them in an oven at 325 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes before adding them to granola, cereal or a casserole.