Nuts are the perfect snack: crunchy, easy to pack and take on the go, and super tasty. Pairing well with chocolate never hurts, either.
But when it comes to nutrition, not all nuts are created equal. We spoke with Malena Perdomo, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E., about the health benefits of nuts and which ones we should be reaching for first.
The good news? All nuts are healthy. "They're packed with good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), and they provide plenty of vitamins and minerals: folic acid, vitamin E, vitamin B6 and minerals like magnesium, potassium, copper, zinc, selenium and phosphorus," says Perdomo. They also contain fiber and protein. Here are the healthiest types of nuts and the science behind why.
A superb snack to munch on, almonds contain lots of healthy monounsaturated fat, and have a higher amount of dietary fiber than other nuts, at 4 grams per 1-ounce serving (about 23 almonds). Almonds also have the most vitamin E and protein of all tree nuts, providing 6 grams of protein per serving. That combination of fiber, good fats and protein has proven to be able to keep you fuller for longer.
Pistachios have the highest potassium (291 milligrams per ounce) compared to other nuts, and the highest amount of vitamin B6. And they're one of the highest-fiber nuts. Pistachios may also help improve other heart disease risk factors, including blood pressure, weight and oxidative status. Even better: a 1-ounce serving of pistachios is 49 kernels.
Walnuts are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. They've also been shown to improve cardiovascular health by lowering your body's cholesterol levels and blood pressure. In addition, walnuts may fight inflammation. A 1-ounce serving of walnuts is 12 to 14 halves.
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A 1-ounce serving of cashews is approximately 18 nuts, which provides 5 grams of protein. Cashews have the highest amount of iron per ounce and are the highest in zinc of all nuts--both minerals are important for maintaining our body's immune system. (And if you're a vegetarian looking for foods rich in iron, you'll want to start snacking on cashews, stat.) They also serve as an excellent source of copper and magnesium.
Hazelnuts have 4 grams of protein per ounce (about 20 nuts) and are an excellent source of vitamin E. In comparison to other tree nuts, they're the highest in folate, a very important nutrient for pregnancy, and one of the highest in monounsaturated fats.
Macadamias are the highest in calories and fat -- but who's counting, right? The calories of nuts vary from 160 to 200 calories per ounce. One ounce of macadamia nuts provides 200 calories, which is about 10 to 12 nuts. They have the highest monounsaturated fat of all nuts. Macadamia nuts may also reduce risk factors for heart disease, including oxidative stress and inflammation.
One ounce of pecans is about 20 halves, which contains 196 calories and a good amount of dietary fiber (2.7 grams). They're also high in monounsaturated fat. A few studies have shown that pecans can lower "bad" LDL cholesterol in people with normal cholesterol levels.
Pine nuts are a good source of vitamin E and phosphorus, plus they're high in vitamin K. One ounce of pine nuts is about 167 nuts.
(Real Simple magazine provides smart, realistic solutions to everyday challenges. Online at www.realsimple.com.)
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