Nuts are nutritional powerhouses, packed with heart-healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Once maligned as too fat-filled to be beneficial for health, doctors now say that certain types of nuts are excellent choices for snacks.
In fact, a recent report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that adults who incorporate nuts into their diets don’t have to limit their consumption, as previously believed. The study found that people who added nuts to their diets lost weight and reduced waist size.
“A single handful of nuts pack a healthful bounty of nutrients,” says licensed certified nutritionist Mira Calton, author of the book Naked Calories.
Tara Gidus, the team dietitian for the Orlando Magic basketball team and co-host of the TV show Emotional Mojo, tells Newsmax Health that nuts are an ideal way to get micronutrients into your diet in a portable, healthy way. However, not all nuts are created equal. Some are much healthier than others.
Here are Gidus’ choices for the 10 most-nutritious nuts per 1-ounce serving:
1. Pistachios: Serving size, 49 nuts; Calories, 160.
Often called “the skinny nut” because of its low-calorie status, one serving of pistachios provides 12 percent of your daily fiber needs. Almost 90 percent of the fat content is healthy unsaturated fat. They’re also full of vitamin B6 and thiamin. Pistachios are one of the greatest sources of antioxidants among all snack nuts and may help reduce cholesterol and lower blood pressure.
2. Cashews: Serving size, 17 nuts; Calories, 163
Cashews have more than double the iron of a one-ounce serving of ground beef. They also provide 38 percent of your daily copper needs. If you are deficient in copper you may develop anemia, osteoporosis, and arthritis, have increased LDL cholesterol levels, and become more susceptible to infections. Cashews are also a great source of zinc, which plays an important role in boosting the immune system. It also helps in wound healing and aids our senses of taste and smell. These healthy nuts have less fat per serving than almost any other nut and may be useful in preventing gallstones.
3. Pecans: Serving size, 20 pecan halves; Calories, 196
Research shows that eating a single serving of pecans daily may help protect you against age-related motor neuron degeneration and disorders such as Lou Gehrig ’s disease. There is also good evidence they prevent heart disease and lower cholesterol. Pecans contain 60 percent monounsaturated fat and more than 19 vitamins and minerals.
4. Walnuts: Serving size, 14 halves; Calories: 185
These tasty and popular snacks are the only nuts that have a significant level of omega-3 fatty acids (the heart-healthy substance contained in fish oil). Studies reveal that walnuts play a significant role in managing diabetes, pre-diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. They’re also a great source of magnesium and phosphorus. Some researchers claim that walnuts are an important tool in fighting age-related cognitive decline. Store walnuts in the refrigerator or freezer because they spoil faster than most other nuts.
5. Brazil nuts: Serving size, 7 nuts; Calories, 186
One serving of Brazil nuts supplies your body with all the selenium it needs. Selenium is a trace mineral that is vital for thyroid and immune function. It has the highest amount of magnesium per serving of all the snack nuts, which not only helps maintain proper growth and density of bones but is a natural laxative and antacid.
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6. Peanuts: Serving size, 28 peanuts; Calories, 191
Peanuts contain the highest amount of folate, a vitamin that plays many roles in our body, including helping form genetic material in all our cells and enabling the formation of red blood cells. The most important role that folate plays is in the prevention of neural tube defects in newborns. Peanuts also help keep blood sugar levels stable and may be a good way to protect against Type 2 diabetes.
7. Soy nuts: Serving size, 1/4 cup; Calories, 126
Soy nuts – not technically nuts – are actually whole soya beans that have been soaked in water, drained, and roasted or baked until they are dried. Soy nuts contain lots of protein, 11 grams per serving. They also have extremely low levels of fat per serving and provide high amounts of vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting and calcium absorption.
8. Pine nuts: Serving size, 157 nuts; Calories, 160
These delicious nuts often used in pesto sauces contain two important ingredients for eye health: lutein and beta-carotene. One serving of pine nuts also gives you 2.5 milligrams of manganese. It is estimated that more than one-third of Americans do not meet their daily manganese requirements and deficiency can cause infertility, bone weakness, and seizures. Toast or roast pine nuts to bring out the flavor and add them to salads.
9. Macadamia nuts: Serving size, 11 nuts; Calories, 203
Macadamia nuts have long been maligned for being high in calories and fat. But scientists now say the fats they contain are healthful. These tropical nuts are one of the few plant products that contain palmitoleic acid. This is an omega-7 monounsaturated fatty acid that helps to lower bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Omega-7 has also been shown to aid in skin health, and for that reason macadamia oil is often added to cosmetic lotions. One serving of macadamia nuts provides 100 percent of your daily thiamin needs. Thiamin is used by our bodies when converting carbohydrates to energy and also has a role in regulating our nervous system. Our bodies store relatively low amounts of thiamin and if we don’t get it regularly through our diet, we can develop a deficiency within two weeks.
10. Almonds:Serving size, 11 nuts; Calories, 203
Ounce per ounce, almonds have the most protein of any tree nut. One serving contains lots of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. Almonds also boost your immune system and are packed with riboflavin, niacin, and calcium. Research indicates that almonds are powerful prebiotics, feeding beneficial bacteria in the digestive system. They also have the most calcium of any tree nut.
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