- Almonds help stabilize blood sugar, have high calcium content, and are the least acid forming.
- Brazil nuts contain omega-3 fatty acids and high levels of the mineral selenium that may help prevent breast cancer.
- Cashews are high in magnesium (second only to almonds) that can help build strong bones and have more carbohydrates and a lower fat content than most other nuts. They are often inexpensive relative to other nuts discussed here.
- Hazelnuts are a good source of quality protein. Vitamin E and beta-sitosterol in hazelnuts contribute to heart health and fight cancer.
- Macadamia nuts are high in fat, though nearly all of it is monounsaturated. They are a good source of thiamine and contain small amounts of phosphorous, selenium, calcium and potassium.
- Walnuts have high levels of vitamin E and an ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids (1:5). These fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, protect heart health and guard against arthritis.
- Pecans also have high vitamin E content and regular consumption may help decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
- Pine nuts are actually the seeds of pine trees and contain large amounts of thiamine (vitamin B1) and protein. If you are trying to lose weight a substance in pine nuts may act as an appetite suppressant.
- Pistachios have lots of calcium, magnesium and vitamin A, as well as fiber and iron.
Best nuts for your diet: Almonds, Cashews, Pistachios
All nuts are about equal in terms of calories per ounce, and in moderation, are all healthy additions to any diet. "Their mix of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber will help you feel full and suppress your appetite," says Judy Caplan, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The lowest-calorie nuts at 160 per ounce are almonds (23 nuts; 6 grams protein, 14 grams fat); cashews (16 to 18 nuts; 5 grams protein, 13 grams fat); and pistachios (49 nuts; 6 grams protein, 13 grams fat). Avoid nuts packaged or roasted in oil; instead, eat them raw or dry roasted, says Caplan. (Roasted nuts may have been heated in hydrogenated or omega-6 unhealthy fats, she adds, or to high temperatures (above 170 degrees F) that can destroy their nutrients.)
Best way to eat nuts: Pair them with a healthy carb
Now you know all about which nuts are good for what — —but to get the most health benefits, it's also important to pay attention to how you eat them. "Nuts are a great thing to eat when you're having a carbohydrate like fruit or juice, because it helps slow down digestion and the breakdown of sugar," says Caplan.
A few winning nut-and-carb combos: Sprinkle them on salads, add them to low- or nonfat yogurt, or spread nut butter on slices of apple or pear. On the go? Pick up a 150-calorie pack of Earthbound Farms Dippin' Doubles Apples & Peanut Butter (11 grams fat, 5 grams protein).
Best nuts overall: A mixed bag!
So which is the healthiest nut overall? A 2004 review in the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide tackled this tough question. Luckily, they concluded, we don't have to pick just one. Mixed nuts, ideally raw and unsalted, provide the best variety of nutrients and antioxidants.