Nuts are a very popular food.
They’re tasty, convenient and can be enjoyed on all kinds of diets.
Despite being high in fat, they also have a number of impressive benefits for your health (and weight).
Nuts are technically considered a fruit. However, unlike most types of fruit, they aren’t sweet and are high in fat.
They contain a hard, inedible outer shell that usually needs to be cracked open to release the fruit inside.
Fortunately, you can buy most nuts from the store “pre-shelled” so that you don’t have to crack them open yourself.
Here is a list of some of the most commonly consumed nuts:
- Brazil nuts
- Macadamia nuts
- Pine nuts
Although peanuts are technically legumes like peas and beans, they are often referred to as nuts because they have similar nutrition profiles and characteristics.
Now let’s look at the top 8 health benefits of eating nuts.
Nuts are highly nutritious. One ounce (28 grams) of mixed nuts contains :
- Calories: 173
- Protein: 5 grams
- Fat: 16 grams, including 9 grams of monounsaturated fat
- Carbs: 6 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Vitamin E: 12% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 16% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 13% of the RDI
- Copper: 23% of the RDI
- Manganese: 26% of the RDI
- Selenium: 56% of the RDI
Some nuts have higher amounts of certain nutrients than others. For instance, just one Brazil nut provides more than 100% of the RDI for selenium .
The carb content of nuts is highly variable. Hazelnuts, macadamia nuts and Brazil nuts have less than 2 grams of digestible carbs per serving, while cashews have almost 8 digestible carbs per serving.
That being said, nuts are generally an excellent food to eat on a low-carb diet.
Nuts are an antioxidant powerhouse.
Antioxidants help control free radicals, which are unstable molecules produced as a normal part of metabolism. Free radical production increases in response to heavy sun exposure, stress, pollution and other causes.
Although free radicals can play a beneficial role in immune response, having too many can lead to cell damage. When your level of free radicals is too high, your body is said to be in a state of oxidative stress, which increases disease risk.
The antioxidants in plant foods, including the polyphenols found in nuts, can combat oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals so they can’t harm your cells.
The ORAC is a test that measures a food’s capacity to fight free radicals. One study found that the ORAC of walnuts was greater than that of fish.
Research has shown that the antioxidants in walnuts and almonds can protect the delicate fats in your cells from being damaged by oxidation.
In one study, 13 people consumed walnuts, almonds or a control meal on three separate occasions. Both nut meals led to higher polyphenol levels and significantly less oxidative damage compared to the control meal.
Another study found that two to eight hours after consuming whole pecans, participants experienced a 26–33% drop in their levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol, a major risk factor for heart disease.
However, studies in older people and individuals with metabolic syndrome found that walnuts and cashews didn’t have a big impact on antioxidant capacity, although some other markers did improve.
Although they’re considered a high-calorie food, research suggests that nuts may actually help you lose weight.
One large study called the PREDIMED study assessed the effects of the Mediterranean diet.
Analysis of data from a subgroup of the study found that those assigned to eat nuts lost an average of 2 inches (5 cm) from their waists, which is significantly more than those assigned to eat olive oil .
Almonds have consistently been shown to promote weight loss rather than weight gain in controlled studies. One study found that pistachios may also be helpful for weight loss .
In one study of overweight women, those who consumed almonds lost nearly three times as much weight and experienced a significantly greater decrease in waist size compared to the control group .
What’s more, even though the calorie counts listed for nuts are quite high, studies have shown that your body doesn’t absorb all of them. This is because a portion of fat stays trapped within the nut’s fibrous wall during digestion .
For instance, the nutrition facts on a package of almonds may indicate that a 1-oz (28-gram) serving has 160–170 calories, but your body only absorbs about 129 of those calories .
Similarly, recent studies have found that your body absorbs about 21% fewer calories from walnuts and 5% fewer calories from pistachios than had previously been reported .