People trying to eat healthy might steer clear of nuts because of their high fat and calorie content, but this is somewhat misguided reasoning. The old rule of ‘everything in moderation’ applies to nuts I particular because in smaller amounts, they deliver a ton of excellent nutrition. In fact, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, eating a handful of nuts every day may actually lengthen your lifespan. In addition to that, nuts contain heart healthy fats, protein, vitamins and minerals essential to optimal human function. Some nuts can even help with weight management because they help you feel full longer.
So which of these little nutritional powerhouses should you be eating? All of ’em! Some are much higher in certain nutrients and lower in others, but they all are associated with perks. Here are some picks:
Almonds are the most awesome of all nuts in terms of their nutritional content. Compared to other nuts, they contain the most calcium, fiber and protein while being relatively low in calories and fat. They’re also rich in vitamin E, which helps fight inflammation and may help reduce the risk of lung cancer and age-related decline of brain function.
How to eat almonds: There’s nothing quite like the decadent flavor of the almighty almond–probably why it’s used in so many sweet treats. I find the natural sweetness and flavor of almonds is preserved best when they’re raw. Try eating them on their own, part of a homemade trail mix, or chop them up and toast them quickly in a dry pan before sprinkling them on a salad.
These little guys must be shaped like brains for a reason. Their rich omega-3 fatty acid content helps boost memory while also fighting inflammation. Walnuts contain the most antioxidants of all nuts, meaning they help protect your body from cellular damage linked to heart disease, cancer and premature aging. They’re also a great source of potassium, vitamin B6 and magnesium.
How to eat walnuts: The rich flavor of the walnut is wonderful on its own, or you can try a little something different, like this crowd-pleasing recipe I can’t stop making: Smokey Walnut Collard Wraps.
Did you know that the cashew is not technically a nut? Considered a fruit, the cashew grows on trees attached to something that looks like an apple. Originally green in color, these ‘nuts’ are removed from the apple and roasted, giving them their beige color. In terms of their nutritional content, cashews are rich in iron, which helps deliver oxygen to your cells, and zinc, which supports healthy immune function and vision. They’re also a good source of magnesium, which may protect against memory loss.
How to eat cashews: Absolutely delicious eaten ‘raw’ on their own, cashews can also be soaked overnight and blended with water to be used as a creamy base for desserts, soups, pasta sauces and more–a great alternative for those with lactose intolerance or other objections to dairy.
Pecans make up for their higher fat content by being one of the most antioxidant-rich foods you can eat. In fact, the USDA places them in the top 20.
How to eat pecans: We’ve all heard of the classic pecan pie, but why not enjoy them in this healthier treat: Homemade Maple Pecan Popcorn.
Technically seeds that masquerade as nuts, pistachios are one of my favorite snacks, and even moreso now that I know they only have four calories each! They’re also relatively low in fat compared to other nuts. Pistachios are rich in the antioxidant called gamma-tocopherol, which is a form of cancer-fighting vitamin E. On top of that, they’re a good source of vitamin B6, which may help boost your mood and strengthen your immune system, and l-arganine, which helps support healthy arteries.
How to eat pistachios: I personally love cracking pistachio shells and munching on these healthy nuts while watching a movie. You can also try stirring chopped pistachios into your next rice pilaf.
No matter which one you choose, there’s no question that nuts make life a little more delicious, nutritious and interesting. So don’t be afraid to go nuts!
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