Nuts are one of the few shortcuts in health. Study after study points to them as tremendous boosters of nutrition, health and wellbeing. Dietitian Ashleigh Feltham reports on the best nuts to eat.
There’s little that walnuts don’t do. The superhero of nuts, walnuts benefit your cardiovascular system, reduce inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity and aid the brain in memory and performance. In fact, several studies link them to longer life and reduced mortality.
They have large amounts of omega 3 fatty acids, and will be in most nutritionists’ top 5 essentials in any diet. Walnuts are also high in antioxidants, specifically ellagic acid, ellagitannins and proanthocyanidins. Studies have found just 40-100g of walnuts a day improves your cholesterol by lowering the bad LDL cholesterol and increasing the good HDL cholesterol. A great snack post-workout.
- 100g of walnuts (about 3 medium handfuls)will give you 2904kJ or 694 calories, 14.4g of protein, 3g of carbohydrates and 69.2g of fat (4.4g saturated fat).
While not a true nut, there isn’t much that almonds aren’t good for. They’re a great source of vitamin E, which helps your heart and skin stay healthy, the B vitamins riboflavin and niacin and a huge range of essential minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc. Not to mention the high levels of dietary fibre making them great for your gut too.
Like walnuts, they consist of mostly healthy fats (73%) and a little unhealthy saturated fat (7%), and they help to lower and balance your cholesterol levels. Almonds can also reduce the impact of inflammation caused by free radicals, particularly in people exposed to toxins like cigarette smoke and heavy pollution.
- 100g of almonds (around 3 medium handfuls) will give you 2503kJ or 599 calories, 19.5g of protein, 4.8g of carbohydrates and 54.7g of fat (3.7g saturated fat).
As a great source of magnesium, cashews are a good choice for your heart. Your body needs magnesium to help it produce energy, and a small handful of cashews (30g) gives you 20-25% of your daily requirements. Studies have suggested that eating cashew nuts at least five times a week can reduce your risk of heart disease by a huge 30-50%!
Cashews are low-GI, meaning this nut will help your body release its carbs and sugar gradually into your bloodstream, keeping you feeling fuller for longer and stopping you feeling the crash you get from high-GI foods like sugary sweets. A small handful of cashews will even provide your body with 12% RDI of non-animal form iron.
- 100g of cashews (around 3 medium handfuls) will give you 2437kJ or 583 calories, 17g of protein, 5.5g of carbohydrates and 49.2g of fat (8.4g saturated fat).
As with all nuts on this list, pistachios are full of healthy fats — but what sets them apart is that they’re also a great source of protein, including the amino acid arginine. This helps your blood vessels remain elastic, relax and prevent clots. Several studies point out that antioxidants in pistachios help reduce your risk of cancer, as well as slow ageing, help your immune system function optimally, support eye health and protect your heart from disease. On top of these amazing benefits a small handful of pistachios will give you a third of your daily requirement of vitamin B6, which is important for your body to produce energy and keep your nerves healthy.
- 100g of pistachios (around 3 medium handfuls) will give you 2389kJ or 571 calories, 19.7g of protein, 6.8g of carbohydrates and 50.6g of fat (5.8g saturated fat).
Nuts about nuts? Check out our selection of delicious nutty recipes!