You would all know from following my social media accounts that I am a HUGE fan of nuts as a snack, on top of meals and added into my baking. You simply can’t go past the healthy fats, fibre, protein and other vitamin and minerals contained in nuts. I get so many questions around which nut type is best however so I thought I would do a post below for you guys detailing the benefits of all 10 nuts. Hint: They are all brilliant in different ways so variety is always best.
Let’s start with one of my all-time favourite nuts. I like the versatility of this nut the best. You can eat them whole, ground them down and use them as almond meal or almond butter or even strain them for almond milk. Almonds are sold in many different ways including whole, blanched, slivered, flaked and even ground so there are plenty of options when adding almonds to your meal plan. A 30g serving of almonds is roughly 20 nuts.
Almonds have an amazing profile of vitamins and minerals. They are a rich source of healthy fats (predominately monounsaturated), have a low portion of ‘bad’ fat (saturated fat) and contain no cholesterol. Almonds are also a great source of Vitamin E which is a fat soluble vitamin important for maintaining a healthy heart and protecting our cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Almonds also contain plant sterols which are important for heart health as plant sterols reduce cholesterol reabsorption in the intestine. Finally, almonds also contain calcium (important for bone health), iron and zinc (important for blood cells and immunity) and fibre (important for bowels and digestion).
Brazil nuts have a lovely buttery taste and I love to pair a few of them with some fresh fruit for a great afternoon tea snack to get me through that 3pm slump. A 30g serving of Brazil nuts is roughly 5-10 nuts (depending on the size of each nut).
Brazil nuts are best known for being an excellent source of selenium. Just two medium Brazil nuts provides around 70mcg of selenium which is the daily recommended dietary intake . Selenium is important in our diet as it is a powerful antioxidant which has been shown to be beneficial to reduce oxidative stress in the body which can help fight inflammation. Selenium can also assist with cognitive function, fertility and may reduce the risk of heart disease. Again, Brazil nuts are a good source of healthy fats and contain fibre, plant protein (particularly arginine) and also provide calcium, magnesium and zinc. To keep Brazil nuts in top condition, store them in an air tight container in either the fridge or freezer (for up to 4-6 months).
This has to be the most popular nut of 2018. Due to its buttery flavour and texture, companies are finding new and creative ways to use cashews. Just this year alone I’ve tried a turmeric cashew milk latte, cashew nut butter on sourdough and cashew nut meal in a curry! A 30g serving of cashews is around 15 nuts.
Cashews are rich in healthy fats, specifically monounsaturated fat (around 60% of total fat) and also have a low GI making them a great choice for people who feel hungry or get cravings regularly. Cashews are rich in copper with a 30g serve providing about 20% of the recommended dietary intake. Similar to other nuts, cashews also contain fibre, plant protein, zinc and magnesium.
I must admit, chestnuts are the one nut I rarely eat. I don’t know why but I don’t find them as versatile as other nuts and once baked, they are softer than other nuts and not like the crunchy texture I’m used to. However, I’m not letting this put me off and I’m making it my goal this year to increase my intake of chestnuts for the wide variety of nutrients they provide. A friend of mine just told me she ground up some chestnut meal to use in baking so that’s a simple way to include chestnuts in your diet if you don’t already! Nutritionally, they are more like a whole grain than a nut as they are actually much lower in fat . A 30g serving of chestnuts is around 4 nuts.
Chestnuts are the only nut that provides vitamin C. A 30g serving of chestnuts provides about 8mg of vitamin C which equates to roughly 20% of the recommended dietary intake of vitamin C. Pair a serve of chestnuts with an orange or mandarin and your vitamin C intake is going pretty well! Chestnuts are a good source of low GI carbohydrate making them the perfect choice for anyone with diabetes, glucose impairment or even those trying to lose weight. Like most other nuts, chestnuts also provide a source of fibre and are low in saturated fat and sodium.
The minute I think of hazelnuts I think of chocolate and I am sure I’m not alone! One of my favourite ways to enjoy hazelnuts is to drizzle them with melted dark chocolate and set them in the fridge. A truly decadent and antioxidant rich snack! I also like to add hazelnuts to any salad that contains fruit as I find the combination of things like hazelnuts and orange or hazelnuts and strawberries absolutely delicious! Blending hazelnuts with milk, rolled oats, honey, a banana and some cacao powder is a delicious (and chocolatey) way to enjoy the benefits of these nuts at breakfast too! A 30g serving of hazelnuts is around 20 nuts.
The most well know nutrient that sets hazelnuts apart is vitamin E. Vitamin E is an important fat soluble vitamin and also an antioxidant which may help reduce the risk of heart disease. A 30g serving of hazelnuts provides roughly 45% of an adult’s daily recommended vitamin E intake. Hazelnuts are also high in healthy fats; monounsaturated fats (around 80% of total fat), dietary fibre, plant protein and plant based omega-3 fats. Hazelnuts being the power house they are; also contain copper, manganese and folate.
Macadamias are an Australian favourite as they are the only Australian bush nut to enter into commercial food production. They pair so well with so many food combinations that they are another favourite nut of mine. Macadamias pair wonderfully with fish (macadamia crusted barramundi), with mango (macadamia, chicken and mango stir fry) or are a great addition to your breakfast bowl (muesli with yoghurt, fruit and macadamias). Ground macadamias also make a tasty alternative to peanut butter or other spreads as the macadamia nut butter has a creamy and buttery texture. A 30g serving of macadamias is about 15 nuts.
A very rich source of monounsaturated fats (around 80% of total fat), macadamias have been shown to reduce the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol in our blood and increase the levels of ‘good’ cholesterol. Research has shown that macadamias may also improve markers of oxidative stress (which can improve damage to the cells in our body). Macadamias also contain plant based omega-3 fats, fibre, natural plant sterols (which may help lower cholesterol) and are naturally low in sodium. Finally, if you’re not convinced that macadamias are amazing, they are also an excellent source of thiamin too.
When I say pecan do you immediately think of pecan pie? That’s essentially what pecans are famous for but they are also packed full of amazing nutrients and can be added to salads, snacked on plain or of course, added to your favourite slices for an additional nutrition boost. Pecans are probably one of the only nuts I actually prefer raw over roasted, I quite enjoy the fact that they are softer raw and I like the taste better than when they are roasted (but that’s just my personal opinion!). A 30g serving of pecans is roughly 15 kernels.
As like most nuts, pecans contain a large amount of monounsaturated and polysaturated healthy fats (around 90% of total fat). They do not contain dietary cholesterol but actually help to improve blood cholesterol by reducing the ‘bad’ cholesterol and increasing the ‘good’ cholesterol. Pecans are also rich in antioxidants, a source of dietary fibre, plant sterols, plant based omega-3 fats and also contain iron, zinc and plant based protein.
Probably best known for their role in pesto sauce, pine nuts are the smallest nut and a 30g serving is around 2 tablespoons. I love to use roasted pine nuts in my salads or thrown on top of roasted veggies. Another great idea to use pine nuts in cooking is to stuff veggies with a filling of rice, pine nuts and lentils. Pine nuts can also be used as the perfect partner to pasta sauces as they pair well with tomato based sauces too.
Research has shown that eating pine nuts along with a healthy diet can improve satiety (the feeling of fullness) by increasing the level of appetite-regulating hormone and reducing appetite sensation for up to 4 hours after a meal. Pine nuts contain mostly healthy fats (around 57% polyunsaturated, 33% monounsaturated and 6% saturated fat) and also have naturally occurring plant sterols which can help lower cholesterol reabsorption in the intestine. Pine nuts are also a great source of manganese (important for bone formation), a source of niacin (water soluble B vitamin that helps regulate cellular processes in the body) and a source of iron and zinc.
I personally think pistachios are the most beautiful looking nut due to their green base with a purple/pink skin. Pistachios are actually botanically related to mangoes, nectarine and peaches (fun fact!) but still have all the wonderful health benefits of other nuts. A 30g serving of pistachios is around 30 kernels. An interesting way to try pistachios is to make a pistachio pesto (instead of using pine nuts) or to make a spiced couscous and toss currants and pistachios through at the end. Another brilliant way to get your friends and family to enjoy pistachios is to serve them in their shells at an event or as a pre-dinner snack. People tend to eat less as they need to shell them which makes it difficult to over eat them as they are far too yummy!
Pistachios are an interesting nut as they are one of the few foods sources (besides red wine!) that contain the antioxidant resveratrol. The research shows us that resveratrol appears to have anti-aging, anticancer, antiviral and cardioprotective properties. Further adding to their superfood status, pistachios may help protect against eye disease as they contain significant amounts of the antioxidant lutein and zeaxanthin which has been shown to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration. Pistachios are mostly monounsaturated fat (around 52% total fat) but also contain over 30% polyunsaturated fat and plant sterols and can assist with improving blood cholesterol! Similar to other nuts, pistachios also contain plant based protein and fibre but also are a source of iron and a good sourceof vitamin B6 (important for nerve function and energy production).
The final nut looks the funniest as it’s shaped like a brain but the funny thing is, it’s also the nut that supports brain health the most! I love including walnuts in baking and also in salads (hello Waldorf salad!). They are great crushed and added to your breakfast cereal or even blended into your smoothie. A 30g serving of walnuts is about 10 whole walnuts (or 20 halves) .
Walnuts are one of the few plant based sources of omega-3 fats and contain significant amounts of alpha-linolenic acid which the research shows us can reduce inflammation in the body. Current evidence also shows us that walnuts appear to keep blood vessels healthy by counteracting the inflammatory effects on blood vessels and helping to improve and relax the blood vessel walls. Walnuts are also high in healthy fats, high in potassium, rich in antioxidants and contain arginine (an amino acid which helps blood vessels to dilate and remain elastic).
There you have it, all the wonderful benefits of the 10 tree nuts and why you should be eating a variety of nuts each day! Remember, a 30g serving of raw or roasted (preferably unsalted) nuts is all it takes to include all the wonderful nutrients we talked about above and not to mention all the health benefits too! Please leave me any comments regarding nuts below and I’ll answer them for you.