Most nuts including walnuts, almonds, peanuts, and pistachios have been shown to have many health benefits when consumed in moderation. Walnuts are a particularly rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and may be better at lowering cholesterol as compared to other nuts. The FDA has approved heart health claim for almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pignola pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts. Brazil nuts are very rich in selenium, a powerful antioxidant that helps neutralize harmful free radicals. In a recent study they were shown to lower the risk of breast cancer.
They are tasty, they are calorie-rich, and they are good for your heart! Doesn’t that sound contradictory and too good to be true? Well, think again. We are talking about nuts! Most nuts including walnuts, almonds, peanuts, and pistachios have been shown to have many health benefits when consumed in moderation. Now we know you have a lot of questions about that. Let us see if we can answer all your queries:
How much nuts should I have in a day?
Having 1 to 2 ounces (30 to 60 grams) of nuts every day is enough to give you all their health benefits.
About how much is 1 ounce of nuts?
- Walnuts 8-11 halves
- Almonds 18-20
- Pecans 18-20 halves
- Hazelnuts 18-10
- Pistachios 45-47
- Peanuts 28-30
In general, a handful is a good estimate of the amount that you should have in a day.
What about the calories?
Nuts are indeed calorie rich. Having 30 to 60 gms of nuts will add about 180 to 360 calories to your diet. You can keep your total calorie consumption in check by having nuts in place of some other high calorie item in your diet. For instance, snack on nuts instead of cookies or add walnuts instead of cheese to your salad.
What if I am trying to lose weight?
There is a very good chance that you will lose weight in spite of adding nuts to your diet. Since nuts are calorie rich, they will reduce your craving for other fatty food items and make you stick to your diet plan more consistently. In the Harvard’s Nurses’ Health Study, women who consumed nuts regularly were generally thinner than those who didn’t.
What does the US FDA say about the health benefits of nuts?
The US FDA has evaluated the effect of nuts on heart disease. In 2003, the FDA approved the following claim for nuts: "Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 oz per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease."
Which nuts are the best for health?
Most commonly consumed nuts are beneficial for your health. In scientific studies, the participants had walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, peanuts, and pistachio nuts. Some notable points about different nuts are as follows:
- Walnuts are a particularly rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and may be better at lowering cholesterol as compared to other nuts.
- Though peanuts are not exactly a nut (they are a legume), they are as good as other nuts for lowering the risk of heart disease.
- FDA has approved heart health claim for almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pignola pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts as these nuts contain less than 4g of saturated fats per 50g.
- The FDA has not approved heart health claims for brazil nuts, macadamias, cashews, and pinyon pine nuts as they are high in saturated fats. Coconuts are also high in saturated fats and should probably be avoided.
- Brazil nuts are very rich in selenium, a powerful antioxidant that helps neutralize harmful free radicals. In a recent study they were shown to lower the risk of breast cancer.
- Pistachios are rich in iron, protein, fiber and have high levels of magnesium, which helps control blood pressure
- Hazelnuts are one of the richest sources of the antioxidant vitamin E
- Cashew nuts are a rich source of iron, which is needed to make hemoglobin
- Chestnuts are low in fat but they have not been studied in large scientific studies.
- The best approach would be to eat a mix of nuts rather than limiting yourself to one or two types
What is it in nuts that makes them good for health?
One of the important reasons why nuts are good for health is that they are high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and contain naturally occurring cholesterol-lowering compounds called plant sterols. Nuts are also one of the best plant sources of protein besides being rich in fiber, phytonutrients and antioxidants such as Vitamin E and selenium. Nuts also contain folic acid, copper, magnesium and the amino acid arginine.
Which studies have shown that nuts are beneficial?
Some of the important studies that showed the beneficial effect of nuts are: Adventist health study: This was a large study, comprising 31,000 white Californian Seventh Day Adventists. It reported that those having nuts daily had up to 60% fewer heart attacks than those who ate nuts less than once per month. The Iowa Women's Healthy Study: women who ate nuts >4 times a week were 40% less likely to die of heart disease. Harvard’s Nurses’ Health Study: women who had at least five ounces of nuts per week were 35% less likely to be diagnosed with coronary heart disease compared to those who had less than one ounce of nuts in a month. The Physician's Health Study: men who had nuts 2 or more times per week had reduced risks of sudden cardiac death.
What exactly are the health benefits of eating nuts?
The most studied and hence, well defined benefits of nuts are Lower cholesterol levels Lower the risk of heart disease Some other possible health benefits of nuts are Lower risk of stroke Lower risk of type 2 diabetes Protection against dementia Lower risk of certain cancers Lower risk of gallstones
Any suggestions for incorporating nuts in my diet?
Add nuts to your breakfast cereal Add nuts in your salad or pasta in place of meat or cheese Season your food with crushed nuts rather than butter or cheese Snack on nuts in place of cookies, pastries and other refined foods Use home-made peanut butter instead of regular butter or mayonnaise Is it ok to have salted and fried nuts? No, it’s not really a healthy choice to have salted and fried nuts. Try to stick to low-salt or unsalted varieties and dry-roasted or raw nuts.
Are nuts good for everyone?
Yes, health benefits of nuts have been observed in people from all age groups and races. However, some individuals are allergic to nuts and must avoid consuming them. The British Nutrition Foundation advises that people with a family history of nut allergies should avoid nuts during pregnancy and should not give them to their children in their early years.