If you want to control your weight, live longer and boost your bod, eating a variety of nuts is a tasty and easy way to do it. Nuts are fantastic for your health, plus each has its own perks.
To start, nuts contain heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. They’ve been shown to help prevent cancer and lower cholesterol , especially bad low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. They have lots of vitamin E and magnesium, which help control blood sugar and blood pressure. Finally, they’re packed with protein and fiber, which make you feel full.
“Nuts are awesome, and there are several studies that correlate regular nut consumption with lower risk for cardiovascular disease,” says Laurie Mitchell, RDN, who oversees Unum’s corporate wellness programs. “A handful daily is good for most people, unless they have nut allergies. They’re a great substitute for chips, candy bars or other less healthy snacks.”
Beyond snacking, you can transform soaked (and then drained) nuts into creamy toppings, creating whole-food plant-based versions of everything from Alfredo sauce to ranch dressing. Or throw a handful of several nuts into a food processor with a little salt, nutritional yeast, fresh lemon juice and a pressed clove of garlic, in order to create a power-packed crunchy and flavorful topping for salads and pastas.
Here are 5 fantastic nuts and their especially special qualities:
Nuts (and seeds) are loaded with more vitamin E than all other whole foods, but almonds take the cake. Almonds also have more calcium than any other nut: One cup of whole almonds has 385 mg, almost half the recommended daily amount of 1,000 mg for adults up to age 70 and more than one-third of the 1,200 mg daily for adults age 71 and older. Fun fact: One almond has 3 mg of calcium.
Hefty with a light crunch, Brazil nuts have more selenium than any other nut. You need just one or two a day to reap the antioxidant powers of selenium, a mineral that keeps your thyroid healthy and protects your DNA — though you don’t want to eat more than four or five per day because high doses of selenium can be harmful. Brazil nuts also lower LDL and are exceptionally good at making you feel full.
These curvy beauties have lots of blood- and bone-boosting vitamin K, along with 14 other vitamins and minerals. One ounce of whole cashews, about 20 nuts, gives you one-third of the recommended daily amount of 1.3 mg of vitamin B-6, an immune system fortifier (you need slightly more vitamin B-6 after age 50).
Slightly sweet and soft to the bite, pecans have more flavonoids than any nut, along with 16 different vitamins and minerals. Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants that have anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic and anti-carcinogenic properties. They also keep your blood from clumping up, helping prevent heart attacks. Along with walnuts, pecans have been shown to suppress breast cancer cells.
This versatile nut is one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3s, the same amazing fatty acids you find in cold-water fish and that some studies have shown reduce risk of cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Omega-3 fats also have been shown to help prevent heart disease and stroke and to ease eczema and rheumatoid arthritis. To boot, walnuts are a vitamin E standout, plus they have ellagic acid, an antioxidant that studies have shown fights cancer.
Mitra Malek’s reporting and writing have appeared in The Washington Post and USA Today, and she is a contributing editor for Yoga Journal. Connect at www.mitramalek.com.