Not too long ago, I was asked by a friend whether or not I eat nuts. This question stemmed from the fact that she rarely saw food and health bloggers talk about nuts specifically, which for some, might make them seem “unhealthy”. Though the high fat content in nuts plays a role in this reputation, I welcome these crunchy snacks in every and any form.
Personally, as I explained to this friend, I eat nuts (or nut butter) daily, not only because they’re incredibly nutritious, but I also just love them. Whether it’s almond butter in one of my sweet potato bowls (check out my Instagram post here to see how I make them) or a handful of walnuts with a piece of fruit as an afternoon snack, they’re a part of my regular diet.
While all nuts contain a certain amount of healthy fat, protein, vitamins and minerals, not all are created equal. When I read Dr. Hyman’s book Food: What the Heck Should I Eat? for the first time last year, I was blown away by how much I just didn’t know about the nuts I was consuming.
First of all, Hyman dives into why nuts can get a bad rep, which dates back to the low fat trend that began in our society in the ’80s. They were dubbed as “calorie bombs” and thus ended up on the junk food aisle next to the chips and Oreos. And today, it can be difficult to know just what types of nuts to choose with so many options available–trail mix, chocolate covered, “yogurt” dipped, honey roasted–just to name a few.
Today, we now know that nuts are not only recommended for a healthy diet but also proven to promote weight loss, improve life expectancy, reduce inflammation and more. But this does NOT include those just listed which contain added preservatives, chemical flavors, bad oils, etc.
When purchasing, look for the organic, raw and sprouted varieties. If you need that roasted flavor, just make sure they’re dry-roasted without any added oils. Though these varieties are often more expensive, I believe they’re worth every penny.
I tend to stock up in the bulk foods section of the grocery so I always have plenty on hand for snacking and recipes (plus, shopping in bulk is typically the less expensive option). I dive deeper into even more benefits of buying in bulk in G’s Essential Grocery Guide. One more pointer–start storing your nuts (and seeds) in the freezer to prevent spoilage. This way they’re fresh and ready to go any time!
With all of these tips in mind, where does one begin to choose the absolute best nuts for our health? Below are my top picks, backed by Hyman, for which nuts specifically you should go nuts over daily.
These crunchy favorites aren’t just the basis of my beloved nut butter, they’re also filled with antioxidants, Vitamin E and minerals such as copper, magnesium and manganese to lower bad cholesterol and the risk of heart disease and heart attack. Almonds can also stabilize blood sugar to both get you through that afternoon slump and prevent diabetes.
In addition to walnuts’ high level of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, which promote hair and skin health and brain function, these nuts are notable for their ability to promote arterial strength. Full of flavor and satisfying crunch, they’re my favorite snack to pair with an apple for on-the-go fuel. They’ll both fill you up as well as help strengthen bones, prevent cancer and more.
These buttery and flavorful nuts are one of the most vitamin B6- and potassium-rich foods available, plus they’re high in antioxidants and filled with protein. Hyman praises pistachios for their incredibly high level of arginine, an amino acid found in meat, fish and shellfish. This amino acid produces nitric oxide, which is helpful for blood flow and heart health.
Not only are macadamias one of my favorite nuts due to their unique flavor and crunch, but they’re also loaded with nutrition. I gained a whole new appreciation for these buttery goodies when I learned that, unlike most other nuts, macadamias actually contain the same amount of monounsaturated fats as olive oil. Plus, they can improve overall cholesterol, lower heart disease risk and help protect the brain.
While pecans are most often enjoyed in indulgent desserts, I love them simply on their own. Perhaps surprisingly, pecans have the same cancer-fighting antioxidants as walnuts, as well as a high mineral content, including manganese and copper. They’ve also been associated with lowered “bad” LDL cholesterol and positive triglyceride levels.
Along with my morning drink and daily supplements (click to read more about what those both entail), I always begin my day with two large Brazil nuts. Why? I consider these nuts to be another one of my daily vitamins thanks to their incredibly high level of selenium, a mineral that’s essential to immune and thyroid function, metabolism, detoxification and more. Two nuts alone are all you need to reach your daily requirement and can even improve your cardiovascular function and reduce inflammation as well.
Whether or not you’re as nuts about nuts as I am, you should certainly think about incorporating a variety of these nutrient-dense foods into your daily diet. Not only are they satisfying and tasty, but they’re also filled with unique, health-boosting properties to make you your best self, inside and out!