Nuts like almonds and cashews are lower in fat and higher in protein. Others, such as pecans and macadamia nuts, offer the same protein, amino acid, and fiber, but are higher in fat and calories. A good way to remember these nuts as fattier is to think of the deserts they’re often in: pecan pie and white chocolate / macadamia nut cookies.
To optimize the health benefits of nuts, stay away from those roasted in oil such as honey-roasted peanuts, or heavily salted nuts like shelled pistachios. Naturally, the healthiest way to consume nuts is right from their shells.
Here are three reasons why.
- Nuts help reduce cholesterol and keep your heart healthy.
Nuts include fats that aren’t exactly foes to good health. In fact, unsaturated fats, or “good” fats, can actually lower high cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fats, unlike trans and saturated fats found in meats and dairy products, also help mitigate the risk of inflammation; they promote healthy cellular structures.
In addition, between the rich amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin E, most nuts help your heart get and stay healthy; omega-3 fatty acids help the heart maintain a regular beat, while the Vitamin E found in nuts can actually prevent plaque buildup in arteries.
- Nuts—a natural protein supplement.
Protein, everyone’s favorite macronutrient, is essential to your health. It promotes body function, and body growth. In other words, your muscles wouldn’t be muscles without protein. You might associate it with meats and dairy products, but nuts pack a substantial amount of protein. An ounce of nuts contains roughly six grams of protein. To put it into perspective, that’s about 26 peanuts. The average body needs around 50 grams of protein per day, so adding a handful of nuts to your daily diet could supplement your protein in a big way. When you dig into the mixed nuts at your holiday celebration, keep in mind that peanuts, pistachios, almonds and cashews are among the highest in protein.
- Nuts contain fiber.
If you get 25 grams of fiber a day, you’re doing pretty well for yourself. Sometimes getting that amount is difficult, particularly if your diet doesn’t include beans, bran flakes, or whole-wheat pasta. However, adding an almond snack to your current routine can replenish much-needed fiber in your diet. Almonds are among the nuts with the highest amount of fiber (3.5 grams per ounce). In addition, foods rich in fiber make you feel full at the dinner table. Keep that in mind if you’re worried about overeating this holiday season and remember: a few nuts go a long way, as far as your body is concerned.