Posted on December 8th, 2022
Nuts are a very popular food. They’re tasty, convenient, and can be enjoyed on all kinds of diets — from keto to vegan. Despite being high in fat, they have a number of impressive health and weight benefits.
Here are the top 8 health benefits of eating nuts.
Nuts are seed kernels that are widely used in cooking or eaten on their own as a snack. They’re high in fat and calories.
They contain a hard, inedible outer shell that usually needs to be cracked open to release the kernel inside.
Fortunately, you can buy most nuts from the store already shelled and ready to eat.
Here are some of the most commonly consumed nuts:
Though peanuts are technically legumes like peas and beans, they’re usually referred to as nuts due to their similar nutrition profile and characteristics.
Nuts are highly nutritious. One ounce (28 grams) of mixed nuts contains:
Some nuts are higher in certain nutrients than others. For instance, just one Brazil nut provides more than 100% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for selenium (2).
The carb content of nuts is highly variable. Hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, and Brazil nuts have fewer than 2 grams of digestible carbs per serving, while cashews have almost 8 digestible carbs per serving.
That being said, nuts are generally an excellent food to eat on a low-carb diet.
Nuts are antioxidant powerhouses.
Antioxidants, including the polyphenols in nuts, can combat oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals — unstable molecules that may cause cell damage and increase disease risk.
One study found that walnuts have a greater capacity to fight free radicals than fish.
Research shows that the antioxidants in walnuts and almonds can protect the delicate fats in your cells from being damaged by oxidation.
In one study in 13 people, eating walnuts or almonds increased polyphenol levels and significantly reduced oxidative damage, compared to a control meal.
Another study found that 2–8 hours after consuming whole pecans, participants experienced a 26–33% drop in their levels of oxidized “bad” LDL cholesterol — a major risk factor for heart disease.
However, studies in older people and individuals with metabolic syndrome found that walnuts and cashews didn’t have a big impact on antioxidant capacity, though some other markers improved.
Though they’re considered a high-calorie food, research suggests that nuts may help you lose weight.
One large study assessing the effects of the Mediterranean diet found that people assigned to eat nuts lost an average of 2 inches (5 cm) from their waists — significantly more than those given olive oil.
Almonds have consistently been shown to promote weight loss rather than weight gain in controlled studies. Some research suggests that pistachios aid weight loss as well.
In one study in overweight women, those eating almonds lost nearly three times as much weight and experienced a significantly greater decrease in waist size compared to the control group.
What’s more, even though nuts are quite high in calories, research shows that your body doesn’t absorb all of them, as a portion of fat stays trapped within the nut’s fibrous wall during digestion.
For instance, while the nutrition facts on a package of almonds may indicate that a 1-ounce (28-gram) serving has 160–170 calories, your body only absorbs about 129 of these calories.
Similarly, recent studies found that your body absorbs about 21% and 5% fewer calories from walnuts and pistachios, respectively, than had previously been reported.
Nuts have impressive effects on cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Pistachios have been shown to lower triglycerides in people who are obese and those with diabetes.
In one 12-week study in obese people, those eating pistachios had triglyceride levels nearly 33% lower than in the control group.
The cholesterol-lowering power of nuts may be due to their high content of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Almonds and hazelnuts appear to raise “good” HDL cholesterol while reducing total and “bad” LDL cholesterol. One study found that ground, sliced, or whole hazelnuts had similar beneficial effects on cholesterol levels.
Another study in women with metabolic syndrome observed that eating a 1-ounce (30-gram) mix of walnuts, peanuts, and pine nuts per day for 6 weeks significantly lowered all types of cholesterol — except “good” HDL.
Several studies show that macadamia nuts lower cholesterol levels as well. In one trial, a moderate-fat diet including macadamia nuts reduced cholesterol as much as a lower-fat diet.