Early humans did not suffer from heart disease and many of the other health issues that plague modern societies. Why? Because they ate fresh foods, mostly not cooked, directly from nature (not over-processed). Likely they found and ate nuts as an important source of protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Nuts are not completely overlooked today, but they are under-valued as a super nutritional protein food. Each nut has its own nutrients so eating a variety of nuts is best. If you are worried about the fat content of nuts, remember that they contain the right kind of fats—monounsaturated fats. Why not get rid of the oils that are not healthy and substitute nut oils in your diet? A few go a long way, so don’t overdo it with nuts.
So what’s so good about nuts? Here is a quick overview of the nutritional facts about nuts. They actually have more nutrition than what is stated here, but, trying to keep it simple, here are the well-known health benefits of each nut.
All nuts have protein and heart-healthy fat.
Walnuts: The only nut that contains heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts carry many important B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates. They are a great source of essential fatty acids like linoleic acid, alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and arachidonic acids. These good fats help prevent coronary artery disease and strokes by lowering the bad cholesterol and raising the good cholesterol.
Almonds: Contain more calcium, magnesium (that helps you absorb calcium), and more vitamin E than any other nut. Almonds are rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids and minerals like manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium.
Hazelnuts: Among the healthiest, hazelnuts have more fiber and bone-building manganese than other nuts. They are rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids as well as essential fatty acid linoleic acid. They are a great source of folate, a vitamin that helps prevent anemia and neural tube defects in a developing fetus. Hazelnuts are an important source of antioxidants like Vitamin E. They contain copper, iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and selenium.
Brazil Nuts: Have several days’ worth of the antioxidant selenium that helps regulate thyroid hormones and increases Vitamin C activity. Great source of fiber and many important B-complex groups of vitamins.
Cashews: Cashews are a great source of iron, magnesium, and zinc. A great source of monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic and palmitoleic acids that lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. Cashews are a rich source of B Vitamins, soluble dietary fiber, and minerals like copper, zinc, and selenium. Cashews provide Zea-xanthin, an important flavonoid antioxidant for the eye that is believed to help prevent age-related macular degeneration.
Macadamias: Macadamias are a rich source of minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese and selenium, as well as dietary fiber. They contain B-complex vitamins, deliver more mono-unsaturated fat than any other nut.
Peanuts: Peanuts are rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids and are filled with the most protein, niacin, and folate. Peanuts have Vitamin E antioxidants. They are a close runner-up to pistachios for offering the most potassium. Peanuts have resveratrol, an antioxidant found to provide some protection against cancers, heart disease, degenerative nerve disease, stroke risk, Alzheimer’s disease and viral/fungal infections. Wow!
Pecans: Pecans are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants like Vitamin E, ellagic acid, beta-carotenes, lutein and zeaxanthin. We get lots of dietary fiber from Pecans.
Pistachios: Pistachios are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants like Vitamin E, carotenes, and polyphenolic antioxidant compounds. These antioxidants may help your body remove toxic oxygen free radicals and thus, protect you from diseases, cancers, and infections. Pistachios offer more Vitamin A and B6, iron, and potassium than any other nut. They contain other minerals like copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and selenium.
Pine Nuts: Pine nuts are especially rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids, and the B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) and folates. Pine nuts offer essential minerals like manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium.
Chestnuts: Chestnuts contain a lot of starch like potatoes and corn, but are especially rich in Vitamin C, folates, and dietary fiber. They contain high quality protein, B-complex vitamins, and minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc.
Don’t forget the nutritional value of seeds!
If you would like to investigate further the nutritional value of nuts, here is a great place to start.