Almonds are on nearly every ‘superfood’ list, and for good reason. But the almond’s all-star status can cause us to second-guess our decision to reach for other nuts like cashews, pistachios, or (gasp) the lowly peanut.
The reality: Nearly every type of nut or seed has at least one key standout benefit, so it pays to mix and match. All types of nuts (and seeds) are rich in unsaturated fats and most are good sources of fiber. Each offers different key nutrients, so our best bet is to rotate our selection as much as possible.
Roasted or raw?
Roasting nuts (with or without oil) doesn’t affect the calories or saturated fat, though high roasting temperatures can decrease the enzyme content.
Plain, salty, or sweet?
Plain is best; most nuts have close to zero sodium and sugar. But don’t feel bad if you prefer the flavored varieties. A one-ounce serving (a generous handful) of salted or savory-seasoned nuts typically has 85 to 250 milligrams of sodium, and a serving of honey-roasted nuts has just about four grams of added sugar (the equivalent of a teaspoon of sugar).
But can you stop at just a handful? Nutritious as they may be, nuts are also calorie-dense, meaning they pack a lot of calories into a little space. That one-ounce serving can pack in as much as 200 calories and 20 grams of fat. Sure, it’s the ‘good’ fat, so it’s no problem to keep nibbling if calories don’t matter. If you’re trying to keep things in check, however, it can pay to be mindful of portions.
|# per Ounce||Calories||Total fat (grams)||Saturated Fat (grams)||Fiber (grams)||Standout Nutrient|
|Hazelnuts||21||178||17||1.3||2.7||Lowest in saturated fat; highest in proanthocyanidin, a key component of red wine linked to heart health.|
|Almonds||23||163||14||1||3.4||Highest in fiber and iron (8% of the daily value); nearly 50% of the DV for vitamin E.|
|Pecans||20 halves||196||20.5||1.8||2.7||Highest total antioxidant content of any nut.|
|Sunflower seeds||2 tbsp||164||14||1||2||Highest in vitamin E with more than 50% of the DV)|
|Walnuts||14 halves||185||18.5||1.7||1.9||Provide the most omega-3 fatty acids (though it’s primarily from ALA, not the more beneficial DHA and EPA).|
|Pistachios||49||162||13||1.6||2.9||Highest in potassium (as much as in a small banana).|
|Peanuts||22||161||14||1.9||2.4||Technically the peanut is a legume, not a nut. It’s a good source of cardio-protective folate and niacin.|
|Soy nuts||¼ cup||126||6||1||2||The soy nut (also a legume, despite the name) is lowest in calories and highest in protein, with 11 grams per ounce.|
|Macadamias||10-12||204||21.5||3.4||2.3||Highest in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.|
|Cashews||18||163||13||2.6||0.9||Good source of vitamin K, essential for proper blood clotting and bone health.|
|Pumpkin seeds||2 tbsp||146||12||2||1||Good source of zinc, with 14% of the DV.|
|Brazil nuts||6-8||186||19||4.3||2.1||One Brazil nut provides a day’s worth of the antioxidant selenium.|
Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD is a registered dietitian + nutrition journalist in New Orleans, and founder of Ochsner Eat Fit nonprofit restaurant initiative. Tune in to her podcast, FUELED | Wellness + Nutrition and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @MollyKimballRD. See more of Molly’s articles + TV segments at www.mollykimball.com, and sign up for Eat Fit Wellness Bites weekly newsletter, here.