6 Surprising Benefits of Nuts

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After decades of demonization for their high fat content—which in most cases is heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated anyway—nuts have finally claimed their rightful place among other foods long regarded as healthy.

In fact, nuts are so loaded with nutrients, they could be considered nature’s dietary supplement pill. Of course, roasted in heavy oil and salts, they become a lot less healthy but, properly consumed raw, or in some cases roasted (namely, chestnuts), nuts deliver a vast array of benefits unique to each.

Following are six overarching advantages to consuming nuts, within which are more specific nutrient benefits.

 

1. They Can Promote Heart Health and Circulation

Arginine
An amino acid produced by the body, arginine is implicated in healing, muscle growth, and sperm health because of its stimulation of protein production. But it’s perhaps known best for preventing arterial buildup by expanding blood vessels. Worth noting: Peanuts are not technically nuts, they’re legumes. Also, don’t eat them raw…or honey roasted. Opt for dry roasted, which are almost as healthy (but safer) as raw ones.
Best source: Peanuts (1 g/1 oz serving – 166 calories, approx. 28 peanuts)
Runners-up: Almonds (0.75 g), walnuts (0.7 g), hazelnuts/filberts (0.65 g – 178 calories, approx. 21 hazelnuts)

 

Omega 3
Omega 3s are polyunsaturated essential fatty acids, and walnuts contain the alpha-linolenic (ALA) form—over 150% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), in fact. Benefits include decreased LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, increased HDL (good cholesterol) levels, and a possible reduced risk of heart attack.
Best source: Walnuts (2.7 g/1 oz serving – 185 calories, approx. 14 walnut halves)
Runners-up: Pecans (20% RDA), pistachios (5% RDA), macadamia nuts (4% RDA)

 

Iron
This mineral source is fundamental to the production of red blood cells, the delivery units of oxygen throughout the body. While recommended intakes for men (8 mg) and women (18 mg) vary, a handful of cashews delivers about 25% and 11% of the RDA, respectively.
Best source: Cashews (2 mg/1 oz serving – 157 calories, approx. 17 cashews)
Runners-up: Hazelnuts (1.4 mg), peanuts (1.4 mg), pistachios (1.3 mg)

 

2. They Can Help Preserve Brain and Mental Function

Folate
This B vitamin plays a key role in lowering homocysteine—an amino acid associated with conditions like heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia. Low folate levels have also been linked to depression, anemia, and even hair loss.
Best source: Peanuts (72 mcg or 18% RDA/1 oz serving)
Runners-up: Hazelnuts (34 mcg/9% RDA), walnuts (29 mcg/7% RDA), pistachios (15 mcg/4% RDA)

 

Magnesium
Magnesium plays a role in more than 300 chemical reactions in the body, including proper digestion, heart and circulatory function, and bone growth and maintenance. It’s also been suggested as a viable aid in memory retention.
Best source: Brazil nuts (113 mg or 28% RDA for men/1 oz serving – 186 calories, approx. 6 kernels)
Runners-up: Cashews (88 mg), almonds (81 mg), peanuts (50 mg)

 

3. They Promote Vision and Eye Health

Vitamin A (Beta-carotene)
The nonanimal form of Vitamin A that gives plants their color is implicated in slowing macular degeneration, limiting sun sensitivity, and lowering the risk of heart disease. Pistachios are particularly rife with it, delivering 14% per serving.
Best source: Pistachios (125 mcg or 14% RDA for men/1 oz serving – 159 calories, approx. 49 pistachios)
Runners-up: Pecans (17 mcg), walnuts (6 mcg), hazelnuts (6 mcg)

 

Lutein and Zeaxanthin
These two antioxidants play an important role in reducing the risk of chronic eye diseases, including macular degeneration and cataracts by filtering harmful high-energy blue wavelengths of light.
Best source: Pistachios (362 mcg/1 oz serving)
Runners-up: That’s it. Pistachios are the only nut containing lutein and zeaxanthin in significant quantities.

 

4. They Help Regulate Weight and Metabolism

Protein
Nuts are a fantastic source of this vital energy for vegetarians—and anyone else. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, eating nuts instead of red meat once a day can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes 16 to 35%.
Best source: Peanuts (7.8 g/1 oz serving)
Runners-up: Almonds (6.3 g), pistachios (6 g), cashews (5.4 g)

 

Fiber
The fiber and sustained energy content of most nuts make them filling without being fattening, and chestnuts are by far the lowest in fat and calories than all other nuts.
Best source: Chestnuts (1.5 g fiber, 39 calories/1 oz serving – 70 calories, approx. 3 chestnuts)
Runners-up: Almonds (3.75 g fiber/174 calories), pistachios (3 g fiber/169 calories), peanuts (2.5 g fiber/170 calories)

 

Vitamin E
There are eight forms of this antioxidant, but the one found in nuts is of the alpha-tocopherol variety. Fairly strong evidence suggests it aids in preventing type 1 and 2 diabetes and treating fatty liver disease.
Best source: Almonds (7.8 mg or 52% RDA/1 oz serving – 163 calories, approx. 23 almonds)
Runners-up: Hazelnuts (4.5 mg/30% RDA), peanuts (2.5 mg/17% RDA), Brazil nuts (1.8 mg/12% RDA)

 

5. They Help Strength Bones and Teeth

Calcium
While also vital to blood and cellular function, 99% of all calcium in the body is found in bones and teeth, where it prevents osteoporosis and decay. Almonds are the nuts highest in this mineral, and number two isn’t really close.
Best source: Almonds (81 mg or 8% RDA/1 oz serving)
Runners-up: Brazil nuts (48 mg/5% RDA), hazelnuts (34 mg/3% RDA), pistachios (32 mg/3% RDA)

 

Phosphorus
The only mineral more prevalent in the body than phosphorus is calcium. Combined, the two work to grow, maintain, and repair bones and teeth, along with all other tissues and cells.
Best source: Brazil nuts (218 mg or 31% RDA/1 oz serving)
Runners-up: Cashews (178 mg/25% RDA), pistachios (147 mg/21% RDA), almonds (144 mg/21% RDA)

 

6. They Aid in Boosting Immunity

Zinc
The overall amount of this mineral found in the body is nominal, but it’s vital to immunity, affecting T cell and other immune cell functions and helping to stave off pathogens.
Best source: Cashews (1.7 mg or 16% RDA for men/1 oz serving)
Runners-up: Pecans (1.4 mg/13% RDA), Brazil nuts (1.2 mg/11% RDA), peanuts (1 mg/9% RDA)

 

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Important for keeping hormones balanced and healthy, deficiency among the B6 compounds is associated with compromised immune response. One serving of pistachios contains 40% of the RDA for an average adult.
Best source: Pistachios (0.51 mg/1 oz serving)
Runners-up: Hazelnuts (13% RDA), walnuts (12% RDA), cashews (10% RDA)

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14 Comments

  1. Pamela Turner said:

    I am a 67 yr old female who I can say I am pretty active until lately. I used to go to the gym religiously at 4:00am until recently my mom got sick. That’s when I decided to join Slim in 6. My only problem is that I have been on the program for 3 1/2 weeks and I have lost only 1 1/2 lbs. I am so frustrated. I am eating at least 1500 cals per day.. leaving my beers alone ;->. I read Why Do You Gain Weight When You Start Working OUt? but the only thing I can think of is am I doing too much exercise. I am now on “Ramp It Up” and I do that every morning and I also have started (It will be 2 weeks now) am doing 45 mins of the treadmill. Maybe I am not getting enough sleep? Please help! “frustrated” Thanx for listening…. ;->

    • Eva Jones said:

      Pamela, I can understand your feelings. It took me 6 months to lose 45 pounds. Send me an email and we can see if we can fine tune your nutrition needs to shock your metabolism to get you started. GetFitNoXcuse at gmail

    • marylizlew said:

      Hi:) well I’ve had this same issue in my workout endeavors. And I have worked as a trainer and instructor for years. I’d love to give you some friendly advice. First, three weeks sometimes is not enough to gauge success. I tell my clients, especially female ones to stay away from scales for at least 4 weeks even 6. It takes a, while to create change and numbers can be frustrating as I see in your case they are. Also changes may occur in your body size that might not be reflected on the scale. Inches lost are more important than scale readings. Look for other factors too. How are you feeling? Any other improvements physically? More energy more flexibility or strength? That counts for a lot! And you said your mom is ill… when my mom was sick from cancer I worked out like crazy but STRESS held me back. And with that lack of sleep. 7 hours consistently remember. You mentioned you think your program might be too strenous… what is your regime? Cardio 5 days and weights 4 days is typical. Rest the major muscles you work for a day in between and focus on increasing protein, at least 90 grams per day. If you have a hard workout one day follow it with an easier one the, next. I know this is a lot but I hope it helps. I bet you just need to keep pushing thru and you’ll see those results. Stay off the scale another month and focus on strength goals and endurance goals. See if that helps 🙂 good luck!

    • dj said:

      Have your thyroid checked. Yes, sleep is very important as we get older. I had the same issues and I noticed when I didn’t get enough sleep, I didn’t lose weight even though I worked out and had a healthy diet. Researchers are beginning to realize that sleep is very important to losing weight.

    • Lori said:

      Pamela, you are not eating enough. You are burning more than you are taking in. You may want add caloric intake to about 1700

  2. Parker Mcneal said:

    due to a jaw bone issue, i can not chew nuts i keep reading about how important nuts are will i get the same results if i grind up the nuts and put them in my food thanks for any help.

    • Rebecca Swanner said:

      You will get the same benefits if you put them in your food. Another option is to soak them. They’ll be softer that way. Hope that helps!

    • sierra said:

      I have the same problem and unable to chew well…I use my food processor to make into peanut butter and almond butter.***just add nuts ***We no longer care for the store bought spreads.

  3. Jeremy F said:

    If I’m allergic to nuts (just tree, peanuts are fine and I eat them regularly) what’s a good alternative that has these benefits too?

  4. Nutritionist Traci said:

    Soaking nuts before consumption leads to increased enzyme activity, greater absorption of their nutrients by the body and increased digestibility. When soaked, nuts and seeds will begin the sprouting process which bumps up their nutrient profile considerably. Nuts should only be soaked after they are removed from their shells.

  5. Nutritionist Traci said:

    Soaking nuts before consumption leads to increased enzyme activity, greater absorption of their nutrients by the body and increased digestibility. When soaked, nuts and seeds will begin the sprouting process which bumps up their nutrient profile considerably. Nuts should only be soaked after they are removed from their shells

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