The Best Nuts for Your Health

Maximize your health with these healthy nuts.Maximize your health with these healthy nuts.We all know by now that kale, chia seeds, and quinoa are simply filled to the brim with vitamins and minerals, and although that we've been told nuts are good for us - some are even considered the ultimate superfoods - they often seem to get a bad rap.

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Many people shy away from nuts because they hear that they're high in calories and fat. But what people might not realize is that most of the fats found in nuts are the really good heart-healthy kind known as monounsaturated fats. So the fat you're consuming is only benefiting your health and not damaging your waistline.

Now that you know not to be scared of nuts simply because of their high fat counts, it's important to realize that certain nuts will offer different health benefits. For example, peanuts contain high amounts of folate, while almonds contain more calcium than any other kind of nut. In addition to each of their specific nutrient strengths, they each provide various amounts of other nutritional properties including protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Nuts are also one of the best sources of antioxidants, too.

Elyse Sosin, MA, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian in private practice in Manhattan, often recommends nuts as a snack to her clients. "There are so many different nuts to select from that even the fussiest eater will be able to find one type they like," she says.

"They are also perfect for snacking since they're easy to transport and require no refrigeration or heating," she added. Sosin confirms our belief that the fat found in nuts isn't bad for you, too. "Most contain a good amount of nutrients, some protein, and primarily 'good' fats," she explains.

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Sosin also notes that people with health issues such as diabetes, gestational diabetes, and people with cardiac risks may include nuts into their diet and enjoy them. "If you're worried about the calorie content, my tip would be to portion them out ahead of time, as they can be hard to put down," she suggests. "Also, if possible, try to purchase only the unsalted and unroasted kind."

So, if you're as convinced as we are about the fact that nuts are great for our health, then you're probably wondering which to start snacking on. With the help of Sosin, we've come up with a list of 10 of the healthiest nuts, from common kinds like almonds and pecans, to not so common ones like Brazil nuts. If you're ready to go nuts for nuts and start improving your health with them, check out the healthiest nuts.

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Pistachios

Pistachios are known as "the skinny nut," as they only contain about 3 calories apiece, are low in fat, and have a high amount of fiber. Pistachio nuts are a great source of vitamin B6, protein, potassium, and thiamin. A study from Pennsylvania State University reported that eating pistachios might help prevent high blood pressure by reducing cholesterol levels in people who have cardiovascular risks. Additionally, data presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers Conference showed that a diet that includes a daily dose of pistachios could help decrease the risk of lung and other cancers. A 1-ounce serving of pistachio nuts amounts to 160 calories, and China leads the world in total pistachio consumption.

Cashews

As great sources of iron, cashew nuts contain twice as much iron as ground beef, making them a great source for vegetarians and pregnant women. They're also rich in magnesium, which helps maintain healthy bones and is vital for energy. Cashews are also a source of calcium, vitamin B, zinc, folic acid, vitamin E, and trace amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. They also have a lower fat content than most other nuts and can help reduce the incidence of gallstones. A 1-ounce serving of cashew nuts contains 157 calories, and the cashew tree is from the same family as poison ivy.

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Pecans

Pecans are a great source of vitamin E and studies have shown they are can protect against Alzheimer's disease, cancer, and heart disease. Pecans are packed with plant sterols and are also antioxidant-rich, which helps prevent the plaque formation that causes hardening of the arteries and can be effective for lowering cholesterol levels. As pecans are a good source of vitamin B3, they are the perfect choice if you're feeling lethargic, as this vitamin helps us access the energy in our food.. A 1-ounce serving of pecan nuts amounts to 196 calories, and the pecan tree has been the Texas state tree since 1919.

Peanuts

Also known as Monkey Nuts, peanuts are technically a legume, and contain higher levels of protein than most "real" nuts. Studies have shown that regular peanut consumption helps improve cholesterol levels and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. Research from the University of Florida discovered that peanuts are rich in antioxidants, which protect cells from damage linked to heart disease and cancer. They are also good for keeping blood sugar levels even and so could be a source of protection against type-2 diabetes. They are a good source of vitamin E, which helps protect the skin, and they contain adequate amounts of vitamin B, fiber, potassium, and magnesium. Americans spend almost $800 million a year on peanut butter, consuming about 150 calories in every ounce.

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Brazil Nuts

The greatest health benefit of the Brazil nut is its high selenium content. It has been claimed that selenium can help protect again prostate and breast cancers, AIDS symptoms, male fertility, skin disorders, anxiety, and asthma. It is also crucial for thyroid health. Don't eat too many of these, though. Eating Brazil nuts in large quantities may cause selenosis, also known as selenium poisoning. Thankfully, you only need one Brazil nut each day to get the recommended daily amount of selenium, and at 186 calories for 1 ounce, we're OK with that. Brazil nuts are also a good source of E and B vitamins and essential fatty acids. These super-healthy nuts are plentiful, too, because in just a year, a Brazil nut tree can produce approximately 250 pounds of nuts.

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-Natalia Sloam, The Daily Meal