Nuts have a delightful crunch that makes them a satisfying snack any time of day. Unlike potato chips and pretzels, nuts have significant health benefits. They’re a good source of protein, fiber and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Nuts have chips and pretzels beat in the vitamin department too. Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E, an antioxidant vitamin that protects cells against damaging free radicals. When it comes to snack foods, nuts are a nutritional powerhouse. Here are some other interesting nutritional facts about nuts you might not know.
You Don’t Absorb All the Calories in Nuts
Who can pass up a calorie freebie? Several recent studies show that not all of the fat in pistachios and almonds is absorbed. In fact, up to 15% of the fat in pistachios and 20% of the fat in almonds passes right through your body. The good news? Those “vanishing calories” won’t end on your hips, thighs or mid-section. That makes nuts a winner when it comes to your waistline.
Pine Nuts Help to Control Your Appetite
Pine nuts are actually a seed, but most people still think of them as a nut. Pine nuts are rich in a polyunsaturated fat called pinolenic acid. When you munch on pine nuts, pinolenic acid stimulates the release of a hormone called CCK by the intestines that slows down stomach emptying and turns off your appetite. Sprinkle a handful on a salad for even more nutritional benefits. The natural fats in pine nuts will increase absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like carotenoids from the veggies.
Portion Control is Important
Nuts have health benefits, but they’re not low in calories. Most nutritionists recommend eating no more than an ounce of nuts a day since an ounce of nuts has between 160 and 200 calories. Here’s how many of each type of nut makes up an ounce:
Pine nuts 150 nuts
Pistachios 47 nuts
Peanuts 28 nuts
Almonds 22 nuts
Pecans 18 halves
Cashews 17 nuts
Hazelnuts 18 nuts
Walnuts 14 halves
Macadamias 12 nuts
Brazil nuts 7 nuts
People Who Eat Nuts Are Less Likely to Gain Weight
Since an ounce of nuts has between 160 and 200 calories per ounce, you might think nuts aren’t a good snack choice. Not so. A study carried out at Purdue University showed that women who added 2-ounces of nuts a day to their diet without otherwise changing how they ate or exercised didn’t gain weight over a 10-week period. Aside from the fact that nuts are filling due to their protein and fiber content, there’s some evidence that nuts modestly increase fat-burning. Plus, not all of the calories in nuts are absorbed. In reality, eating an ounce of nuts a day could make it easier to control your weight.
Choosing the Best Nut for the Job
If you’re trying to get more vitamin E in your diet, almonds and hazelnuts are the best choice. An ounce of these crunchy nuts supply more than a quarter of the recommended daily intake of this antioxidant vitamin. Brazil nuts are a top source of selenium, a mineral that’s used to make important antioxidant enzymes. There’s ongoing research looking at whether selenium can reduce the risk of some types of cancer.
When it comes to healthy fats, macadamia nuts top the list. Macadamias have the greatest quantity of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that help to lower LDL-cholesterol, the type that’s linked with heart disease and stroke. Because they’re higher in fat, macadamia nuts are also more calorie-dense. If you’re watching your weight, pistachios are your best bet. You can enjoy around 47 nuts for around 157 calories.
The Bottom Line?
Nuts are a healthy snack with some surprising health benefits. Treat yourself to an ounce a day (about a handful), and enjoy the nutritional benefits they offer.
Berkeley Wellness Letter. “Why Go Nuts”
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012 ajcn.035782
Circulation. 1999; 100: 1253-1258.
American Heart Association. “Monounsaturated Fat”