The health benefits of nuts
All nuts have different nutrition credentials and will offer various health benefits – find out which nut is rich in calcium, which will offer a protein boost and how much fat is in each type with our nutritionist's guide…
Packed with protein, fibre and essential fats, nuts are one of this season's best buys. A golf ball-sized portion (about 30g) of unsalted nuts makes a vitality-boosting snack and, unlike most other options, contributes a mix of valuable vitamins and minerals. All nuts have different nutrition credentials and will offer various health benefits – find your perfect match with our guide…
If you avoid dairy, calcium-rich almonds are a good choice to ensure you're getting enough of this bone-building mineral. Almonds are also high in vitamin E, a nutrient which helps to improve the condition and appearance of your skin. For some extra heart help, swap flaked almonds for the whole nut – with the skin intact – because the almond's skin is full of heart-protecting compounds called flavonoids.
Fruity mincemeat with almonds
Honey crunch granola with almonds & apricots
Ideal for those with low thyroid function, Brazils are a good source of the mineral selenium, which we need to produce the active thyroid hormone. Selenium also supports immunity and helps wounds to heal. You only need three or four Brazil nuts a day to get all the selenium you require.
Because they contribute a good level of protein and are a useful source of minerals like iron and zinc, cashews make an excellent choice if you're following a vegetarian diet. They're also rich in the mineral magnesium, which is thought to improve recall and delay, age-related memory loss. Add a handful to a vegetarian stir-fry or use as a nut butter on crackers or bread.
Broccoli lemon chicken with cashews
Fragrant vegetable & cashew biryani
By far the nut with the lowest fat and calories, chestnuts are rich in starchy carbs and fibre, and in their raw form are a good source of vitamin C. They're lower in protein than other nuts but make a useful contribution of B vitamins including B6. Ground chestnut flour can be used as a gluten-free flour for cakes and bakes, or buy fresh and roast for a tasty snack.
Smashed sprouts mash with chestnuts
Autumn chestnut salad
Opt for hazelnuts if you're concerned about high levels of homocysteine, an amino acid which has been associated with heart problems as well as conditions like Parkinsons. Hazelnuts are a good source of folate, which plays a key role in keeping homocysteine within normal levels.
Chinese noodles with tofu & hazelnuts
Roast whole fish with salsa romesco
With one of the highest fat contents, macadamias are often used to add flavour and texture to dishes and work well in both savoury and sweet recipes. Although high in fat, they do supply good levels of the healthy mono-unsaturated variety. They're a rich source of fibre and make a useful contribution of minerals including magnesium, calcium and potassium. Buy in small batches and store carefully to avoid rancidity.
Beetroot & fennel gratin with macadamia & hazelnut dukkah
Macadamia & cranberry American cookies
Heart-friendly pecans are packed with plant sterols, valuable compounds that are effective at lowering cholesterol levels. Pecans are also antioxidant-rich which helps prevent the plaque formation that causes hardening of the arteries. They're rich in oleic acid, the healthy fat found in olives and avocado. As a good source of vitamin B3 pecans are the perfect option if you're fighting fatigue because this vitamin helps us access the energy in our food.
Maple pecan beans
Cranberry pecan baked apples
Being especially rich in vitamin B6, which is important for keeping hormones balanced and healthy, pistachios are a good option for those with problem periods. They're the only nut to contain reasonable levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that play an important role in protecting the eyes. Pistachios also contain potassium and fibre – in fact a 30g serving has more than three times that supplied by the equivalent weight of plums.
Grapefruit, agave & pistachio salad
Moroccan spiced pie
Their superior antioxidant content means walnuts are useful in the fight against cancer. They're also a good source of mono-unsaturated, heart-friendly fats, and studies show they help to lower the bad form of cholesterol (LDL). Finally, they're rich in omega-3, so they're a great alternative if you don't eat oily fish.
Spaghetti with walnuts, raisins & parsley
Winter leaf & parsnip salad with walnuts
Worried about the fat content?
Nuts are high in fat, but much of it is the heart-healthy variety. The amounts of saturated fat, the type of fat we should avoid, varies between nuts and has been flagged below. Aim to eat those in the amber and green bands most of the time and enjoy those in red category occasionally.
Red (high saturated fat content)
Amber (medium saturated fat content)
Green (low saturated fat content)
This article was last reviewed on 27th September 2017 by nutritional therapist Kerry Torrens.
A registered Nutritional Therapist, Kerry Torrens is a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food. Kerry is a member of the The Royal Society of Medicine, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).
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