Today, we’re cracking the nut mystery wide open: which nut deserves the crown for the healthiest of them all? From walnuts and almonds to pistachios and cashews, the world of nuts, drupes, seeds, and legumes is a crunchy kingdom of nutrition. We’re ranking these snackable wonders from worst to best, considering factors like heart-healthy fats, protein punch, and a sprinkle of vitamins and minerals. But before we dive into the world of nuts, drupes, seeds, and legumes, let’s set the record straight: they’re all healthy and good for you in their own right. There’s no need to fret because these crunchy delights are all winners when it comes to health benefits. So, let’s uncover the truth about which nut reigns supreme in the world of wholesome snacking.
Don’t be misled, chestnuts are very healthy for you, but pinning these little brown nuggets against all the other nuts in this list, someone had to be first in line. With a serving of 100g, chestnuts have a caloric value of 245. This is due to chesnuts’ high sugar concentration, estimated at 10.6g of sugar, the highest on this list. On the other hand, hidden behind those sugars is one of the highest sources of vitamin C, 26mg, an antioxidant that helps protect cells from free radicals and helps boost immunity. However, raw chestnuts contain tannins, which could irritate the stomach and even cause liver damage. Because of this, chestnuts need to be boiled before eating. They also have oxalates, a natural compound inhibiting calcium absorption. Although, don’t be afraid to eat this tasty nut, for they are a good source of vitamin C!
Up next, we have one of my favorite types of pies, minus the crust and added sugars, pecans! These nuts are an excellent source of monounsaturated fats, which are linked to have many benefits for the heart and help slow mental decline. Not only that, pecans are packed with a particular type of antioxidant called flavonoids. Flavonoids can fight inflammation, improve HDL function, and lower LDL. HDL and LDL are the good and bad cholesterol, respectively. These nuts also help regulate blood sugar! Talk about nuts for being the second nut on this list! However, Pecans have phytic acid, an antinutrient that impairs the absorption of minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium.
9. Brazil Nuts
Native to the Amazon rainforest, we have a tasty treat with a buttery texture, Brazil nuts! Brazil nuts are known to be one of the densest sources of selenium, with around 1920 milligrams per 100g of Brazil nut. Selenium is an antioxidant that helps protect against cell damage and helps make DNA. Selenium is needed for your thyroid and promotes cell growth. Selenium also has been shown to help with immune function, having a more positive outcome for infections, pregnancy, heart disease, and cancer! Brazil nuts also have the highest sources of phosphorus and magnesium, at around 725mg and 376mg, respectively. Phosphorus aids in body growth, repair, and production of DNA and RNA. Magnesium regulates muscle and nerve function and helps create protein, bone, and DNA. However, Brazil nuts do contain phytic acid as well as oxalates. Oxalates impair calcium absorption and, in excess, could lead to kidney stones. Too much selenium could cause selenosis, which could cause breathing problems and heart and kidney complications. Limiting your intake to 1 to 3 nuts a day is best.
These little guys pack a punch! Compared to the other nuts, peanuts have the highest amount of protein, 23.2g, per 100g serving! They are also at the top regarding vitamin B3 and Folate! Vitamin B3 is used in carbohydrate conversion, metabolism, and nervous system function. Vitamin B3 has also been linked to a decrease in the risk of heart disease. Folate, or vitamin B9, helps make and repair DNA and RNA and produces specific proteins. Folate can also help prevent development issues during pregnancy. The only drawback with this nut is that peanut allergies are common due to the protein in peanuts. Peanuts also have both phytic acid and oxalates. When kept in a damp environment, peanuts can develop aflatoxin, a poison that could lead to liver failure and liver cancer.
Not only can hazelnuts satisfy your sweet tooth, but they are packed with numerous health benefits. That’s why they earned this spot on our list! Hazelnuts are high in monounsaturated fats, which are shown to have substantial heart health benefits. Hazelnuts are also high in manganese and both vitamin E and B6. Manganese helps form bones, connective tissue, and certain hormones. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps protect against chronic diseases and cancer-related cell damage. Vitamin B6 helps maintain amino acid levels. Furthermore, hazelnuts have been found to improve insulin sensitivity. One disadvantage of this nut is that hazelnuts do contain oxalates.
6. Pine Nuts
Although very tiny, pine nuts boast powerful health benefits that are not small. They are one of the best sources of manganese, zinc, and vitamin K. Manganese helps with bone and connective tissue formation. Zinc is involved in DNA creation and helps maintain the body’s immune system. Vitamin K helps heal wounds, build bones, and make proteins. Pine nuts can also lower LDL, bad cholesterol levels, and improve heart health. Notably, pine nuts have a positive association with sugar control and weight management. However, pine nuts do have phytic acid and oxalates.
5. Macadamia Nuts
This is the nut for you if you want to help improve your heart and brain function and lose weight! Although high in calories, 200 per ounce, most of it derives from being one of the best omega seven fatty acids sources. Omega-7s major benefit is the ability to lower LDL, the bad cholesterol, and help balance triglycerides, which, if there are too many, can increase the risk of developing heart conditions. Omega-7s also encourage fatty acids to be used as energy instead of being stored as fat. Macadamia nuts also have a very high amount of manganese and antioxidants: flavonoids and tocotrienols. Tocotrienols have been shown to help protect against cancers and brain diseases.
Thinking of pistachios hurts my fingers because they are so tough to get out of their shells! It may be worth it because they are surprisingly full of fantastic health benefits. Pistachios are one of the best sources of vitamins B6 and B1. Vitamin B6 maintains amino acid levels and promotes a robust immune system. Vitamin B1 helps the body generate energy. Pistachios are also rich in potassium, which helps balance blood pressure and improves kidney health. Pistachios promote both healthy gut bacteria and blood vessel health. The only notable downside of pistachios is that they have phytic acid.
If I were to pick a nut to eat plain and raw, it’d be cashews. I love cashews, and knowing all their benefits made me love them more! Cashews are the best source of both copper and iron. Copper helps the body absorb iron and is generally good for bone health. Iron is used for hemoglobin and myoglobin creation, which helps transfer oxygen through the body. Cashews also have a good amount of antioxidants and minerals, promoting a healthy immune system and heart and supporting other body functions. Roasted cashews have a more potent antioxidant effect. However, like many other nuts on this list, they contain phytic acid and oxalates.
We’re at the second to last on our list! Can you guess what’s to come? We have walnuts! Walnuts are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3s raises HDL, the good cholesterol. They also decrease inflammation, maintain blood pressure, and improve artery function. Walnuts are rich in antioxidants compared to all the other nuts on this list, helping with sleep, decreasing inflammation, promoting a healthy gut, and promoting healthy brain function. However, this nut contains oxalates and phytic acid, which is not much different from all the other nuts.
For the love of almonds! Almonds are high in fiber, so you feel full for longer, which helps prevent you from overeating. Almonds are also very high in vitamin E, which has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. Almonds are one of the best sources of vitamin B2, which converts carbohydrates into energy. Almonds are very high in calcium. Almonds help the heart by lowering LDL levels, the risk of heart-related illnesses, and regulating blood pressure and blood sugar. It’s no question why this nut was number one on the list!
In conclusion, the world of nuts, drupes, seeds, and legumes has been a flavorful journey, highlighting the diverse nutritional benefits each one brings. While we’ve playfully ranked them based on certain factors, it’s important to emphasize that there’s no such thing as a “worst” nut. Each one has a unique blend of essential nutrients, offering a range of health benefits that contribute to a well-rounded diet. So, whether you’re munching on walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or any other nutty snack, remember that you’re making a smart and wholesome choice. It’s crucial to celebrate the versatility and nutritional richness of these snacks. In the end, the healthiest nut is the one that suits your taste and dietary needs. Keep enjoying your favorite guilt-free; after all, they’re all winners!
This article originally appeared on Craving Veg.