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Health Benefits of nuts

Health Benefits of nuts

Nuts Make Nutrition News

There’s good news for nut lovers. Nuts are tasty, versatile and good for you, too. In fact, research has uncovered some important health benefits of nuts. Eating nuts as part of a healthful diet may help you reduce your risk of heart disease and can be a satisfying part of a healthful diet for weight management. Learn more about the nutritional value of nuts and how to incorporate them into a healthy living diet.

Nutrition in a Nutshell

It’s true that nuts are relatively high in fat. Yet, the fat profile of nuts is part of what makes the nutritional value of nuts so high. Nuts are naturally cholesterol free and trans fat free; many are also low in saturated fat. The fats in nuts are mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These types of heart healthy fats may have a positive impact on blood cholesterol levels. Nuts are also nutrient-dense. That means that for the calories they contain, nuts are sources of key nutrients, such as vitamin E, selenium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and/or fiber. Nuts also contain protein (amounts vary by type of nut), which is why they are part of the Protein Foods Group on www.MyPlate.gov.

Nuts Weigh In

Research finds that eating a modest amount of nuts every day (1-1/2 ounces) may improve your health. Evidence shows that people who eat various types of nuts, including almonds, walnuts, peanuts and pistachios, have lower blood cholesterol levels and may reduce their risk of heart disease. Their crunchy texture, along with their protein, fat and fiber, make nuts a satisfying choice which potentially can help with weight management.

An important tip is to add nuts without adding extra calories to get the full health benefits of nuts. To do that, you’ll want to substitute nuts for other food choices. For example, snack on an ounce of peanuts instead of an ounce of potato chips, top pancakes with a half-ounce of chopped pecans instead of a tablespoon of butter or munch an ounce of almonds instead of an ice cream bar. The crunchy texture of nuts plus their protein, fat and fiber make nuts a satisfying choice.

Label News on Nuts

Nuts were the first food allowed to carry a “qualified” health claim on their labels. This means that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows manufacturers of certain nuts to print this statement on qualifying product labels:

"Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease."

A "qualified" health claim has good scientific evidence to support the claim, but the evidence is not considered conclusive. Nuts allowed to carry this health claim include peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts.

A Handful a Day

It’s a good idea to portion your serving of nuts before you begin eating them. One ounce of nuts is about the size of a small handful; use the amounts in the chart on page 2 to serve up your portion. Count an ounce of nuts as 2 ounce-equivalents from the Protein Foods Group.

While there are minimal nutritional differences between natural (“raw”) nuts and dry roasted nuts, oil roasted, honey roasted and coated nuts have slightly higher amounts of fat, sugars and/or calories. Besides snacking on nuts, try these tips for fitting nuts into your healthful eating plan.

  • Snack on lightly salted peanuts in place of a candy bar.
  • Add chopped or ground nuts to bread, pancakes, waffle, muffin or cake recipes.
  • Include a bowl of nuts on an appetizer table for company.
  • Sprinkle chopped nuts on a bowl of soup – try peanuts on a Squash Soup, pecans on potato soup or hazelnuts on split pea soup.
  • Add whole, sliced or chopped nuts to salads. Toss pecans or walnuts with blue cheese or gorgonzola on a spinach salad; top chicken salad with slivered almonds.
  • Add toasted nuts, such as almonds, to steamed vegetables and pasta dishes.
  • Mix ground nuts into the breading for fish or chicken for flavor and crunch.
  • Make a quick snack mix with nuts, air-popped popcorn and dried fruit.
  Approx. number of nuts in 1 ounce Calories Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g) Mono-unsaturated (g) Poly-unsaturated (g) Protein (g) Fiber (g)
Almonds* 22 170 15 1 9 4 6 3
Brazils 6 190 19 4 7 6 4 2
Cashews 18 160 13 3 8 2 4 1
Hazelnuts* 21 180 18 1.5 13 2.5 4 3
Macadamias 10 to 12 200 22 3 17 0 2 2
Peanuts 35 170 14 2 7 4 7 2
Pecans 19 halves 200 21 2 12 6 3 3
Pistachios 49 160 13 1.5 7 4 6 3
Walnuts 14 halves 190 19 2 2.5 13 4 2  
Calories, fats and protein in 1 ounce of unsalted nuts*
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26, 2013. Data for almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, peanuts, pecans, and pistachios are based on dry roasted, unsalted varieties; Brazil nuts and walnut data are for unroasted, unsalted varieties. * These nuts qualify for the FDA heart-health claim.

These delicious Healthy Living recipes showcase nuts in dishes that you'll enjoy preparing and eating. Explore dishes like our Easy Chicken Teriyaki Recipe or our Thai Peanut Chik'n Sandwich to take advantage of the health benefits of nuts.

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