Nuts and Seeds – Top 12 to Include in Your Diet
Nuts and seeds are certified superfoods.
They’re full of good for you nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants.
One of my favorite healthy snacks to grab and go. And I always make sure to have a stockpile of them at home for easy snacking.
Studies have linked eating nuts and seeds with various health benefits including reducing the risk of heart disease.
In this article, we list 12 healthiest nuts and seeds and their health benefits.
Nut and Seeds Benefits
Nuts and seeds contain a good mixture of protein, fiber, and fat. All of which are beneficial to so many aspects of your health.
Much of the fat in nuts and seeds is monounsaturated fat, as well as omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fat. They are all considered healthy fats that can lower your bad cholesterol levels in the blood.
They also add other benefits like enhancing your cognitive functions.
There is also an array of other key vitamins and minerals like magnesium and vitamin E found in nuts and seeds.
It’s no wonder they do wonders for our health.
Studies show eating a diet rich in nuts and seeds is linked to a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and other chronic illness (1, 2, 3).
A handful of them or about 28g per day alone can help reduce your health risks by 20% according to one study (4).
Weight Loss Benefits
If you’re looking to lose weight, they can add value there too.
Nuts and seeds help burn energy and manage food intake. Thanks to their high-fat content which does not get fully absorbed by the body.
Aside from the fat, their protein and fiber content helps bring satiety and keeps you full for longer. These all lead to better calorie management throughout the day.
Just one serving a day can help prevent weight gain and promote weight loss.
Though, I advise you not to go overboard with nuts on weight loss.
Most nuts tend to be high in calories and fat. When eaten in excess, they can easily break your daily calorie budget.
Aim one serving a day and know which nuts carry lower calories with most health benefits.
So, which seeds and nuts are the healthiest?
Knowing each nut and seed’s are the healthiest can help you get the most nutritional bang for your buck.
So here’s a list of the healthiest nuts and seeds and their nutritional benefits that you’ll definitely go nuts over!
Serving: 1-oz (28g), Protein: 3g, Fiber: 3g, Fat: 20g, Calories: 193 (5).
Pecans are super delicious and versatile. You can eat them raw or baked.
These nuts offer tremendous health benefits in many different ways.
They’re excellent sources of energy and contain over 19 different vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, vitamin A, E, calcium, potassium, and zinc (6).
They’re a good source of protein and dietary fiber.
At just 193 calories per ounce, pecans provide 3 grams of high-quality protein and 3 grams of dietary fiber.
Pecans are also high in monounsaturated fats, and they can help to improve cholesterol levels by lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) and increasing HDL (good cholesterol levels).
In-fact USDA reported, pecans are among the top 20 foods for antioxidant capacity (7).
Some research suggests that these natural compounds protect the body from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals.
They’ll sure to keep you healthy.
Serving: 1-oz (28g), Protein: 6g, Fiber: 3g, Fat: 13g, Calories: 159 (8).
Pistachios are also known as “skinny nuts.”
That’s because pistachios contain fewer calories than many other nuts, but have more potassium and vitamin K than most.
Pistachios are unique in that they are the only in-shell snack nut.
In-shell pistachios take much longer to eat than shelled nuts so the consumption time is slowed.
Empty pistachio shells serve as an important visual cue, encouraging snackers to be more “mindful” as they eat, thereby curbing calorie consumption.
Including pistachios as a weight-wise snack can help to ensure long-term weight management success.
One study actually found that eating pistachios may help people lose weight (9).
In addition to its low calories, pistachios are exceptionally rich in many nutrients, including protein and dietary fiber.
One serving of pistachios, which is an ounce contains just 159 calories and 13 grams of fat, yet packs 6 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber.
Pistachios are also an excellent source of heart-healthy unsaturated fatty acids, vitamin B6, niacin, copper, and manganese.
They also contain significant amounts of phytosterols, a compound thought to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering high levels of damaging LDL cholesterol (10).
Serving: 1-oz (28g), Protein: 4g, Fiber: 3g, Fat: 17g, Calories: 176 (11).
Known as filbert or cobnut, hazelnuts are incredibly nutritious and make a delicious healthy snack.
At around 176 calories per ounce (28g), hazelnuts contain 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber.
Also, they are a good source of many vitamins and minerals including vitamin B1, 2, 6 and vitamin E, iron, zinc, potassium, thiamin, calcium. Like the other nuts on this list, hazelnuts also appear to leave positive effects on heart health.
Studies have also discovered hazelnuts’ cholesterol-lowering power. It is believed to be due in part to their high content of monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fatty acids (12).
One study found that ground, sliced or whole hazelnuts had similar beneficial effects on cholesterol (13).
Hazelnuts contain plant or phytosterols which act as antioxidants, and in the digestive tract appear to combine with cholesterol from other foods and prevent absorption of cholesterol (14).
This may reduce serum total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels.
Hazelnuts also contain beta-sitosterol, which is used by the body in order to decrease cholesterol and it can also help to prevent breast and prostate cancer (15).
Serving: 1-oz (28g), Protein: 6g, Fiber: 3g, Fat: 14g, Calories: 161 (16).
Almonds are very popular tree nuts.
And they are considered by many as the most nutritionally-dense nut, meaning they offer the most overall nutrients per calorie and per ounce.
Despite being one of the highest fat-containing nuts, almonds are highly nutritious with a long list of health benefits.
Just one 1 ounce (28g) serving of almonds deliver an impressive amount of nutrients that includes 6 gram of protein, 3.5 grams of fiber, and 37% RDA of vitamin E.
Almonds have as much calcium as milk but it’s important to note you would consume about eight times as many calories, as you would in a cup of milk. Almonds are also good sources of magnesium, selenium (17).
Research has consistently shown that eating almonds can help people weigh less and reduce their body fat, in addition to lowering blood pressure (when combined with a low-calorie diet.). They may also help lower cholesterol (18, 19).
In one study on overweight women, those who consumed almonds lost nearly three times as much weight and experienced a significant decrease in waist size compared to those who didn’t (20).
What’s interesting, even though the calorie counts listed for nuts are quite high, studies have shown that your body doesn’t absorb them all.
In fact, 10 to 15% of almond’s calories are not absorbed by the body, because the fat is too difficult to access and break down (21).
For example, the nutrition facts on a package of almonds may say that 1-oz (28g) serving has about 160-170 calories. But your body will only absorb about 129 of those calories (22).
Serving: 1-oz (28g), Protein: 5g, Fiber: 1g, Fat: 12g, Calories: 155 (23).
Cashews are a unique type of nuts. It is in a sense that they’re not a true tree nut, but they are actually closer to legumes in how they grow (24).
Cashews are of the drupe family of plants which are grown similar to the way peanuts do.
However, cashews hold many of the same valuable health benefits of other nuts in our list.
Cashews are good sources of iron, phosphorus, magnesium, Vitamin B6, and monounsaturated fats (25).
Iron helps to keep the skin, hair, and nails healthy. And while phosphorus is essential for building strong bones and teeth (26, 27).
Magnesium helps muscle-building protein and overall energy (28).
Cashews are also rich in other minerals like copper, zinc, and biotin.
They are actually a low-fat nut, and like olive oil, they have a high concentration of oleic acid, which is good for making your heart healthier.
Cashews are also a good source of protein and dietary fiber.
Another major benefit of cashews is that it contains a significant amount of amino acids (29).
Amino acids are the protein building blocks, and the specific one found in cashews can curb the symptoms of not only stress, anxiety, and depression.
It’s called tryptophan.
According to Dr. Andrew Saul, 1/4 cup of cashews provides one to two thousand milligrams of tryptophan, which rivals prescription antidepressant Prozac (30).
The way tryptophan works are quite simple; it helps to improve the uptake of serotonin, otherwise known as the “feel-good” hormone in the brain.
An adequate intake of tryptophan yields to a more efficient production of serotonin which, subsides feelings of being anxious, stressed and just downright blue.
6. Macadamia Nuts
Serving: 1 ounce (28g), Protein: 2g, Fiber: 2g, Fat: 21g, Calories: 201 (31).
Macadamia nuts are considered the world’s finest nuts. This is probably for their role in making desserts tastier.
These small buttery flavored nuts are very nutritious.
Macadamia nuts are rich in “monounsaturated fats”, the type of fat that helps to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease (32).
They also contain magnesium and potassium, both help with normal body functions such as muscle building, heart function, and energy boost.
In addition to healthy fat, mineral-like magnesium and potassium, macadamias are also a good source of zinc, copper, calcium, phosphorus, and thiamin.
7. Brazil Nuts
Serving: 1-oz (28g), Protein: 4g, Fiber: 2g, Fat: 19g, Calories: 184 (33).
Brazil nuts are the largest nuts, and that’s for a good reason.
These Brazilian beauties are incredibly nutritious and have been shown to significantly improve cholesterol.
According to the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, eating a single serving of Brazil nuts may bring down cholesterol levels down faster than statin drugs and keep them down even a month after that single ingestion (34).
Brazil nuts are also good sources of selenium and vitamin E. Both selenium and vitamin E help the body fight off free radicals, which damage healthy cells and DNA (35).
Just 1 kernel (whole Brazil nut) contains 137 percent of your daily selenium needs.
Additionally, it’s high in healthy fats, a good source of many trace minerals low in carbs. Brazil nuts make an excellent addition to a healthy diet.
They also contain minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and fiber.
Fiber is well known for keeping the digestive system running smoothly and the heart-healthy.
Serving: 1-oz (28g), Protein: 4g, Fiber: 2g, Fat: 18g, Calories; 183 (36).
Walnuts are incredibly nutritious and weight loss friendly.
In fact, many have considered walnuts to be a superfood. These nuts are rich in omega-3 fats and contain higher amounts of antioxidants than most other foods (37).
As you may know, omega-3s can help prevent arthritis and depression.
Not surprisingly since walnuts are rich in omega-3s, research shows that eating walnuts may improve brain health while also helping to prevent heart disease and cancer (38).
Walnuts also contain protein, vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, manganese, selenium.
Serving: 1-oz (28g), Protein: 7g, Fiber: 2g, Fat: 14g, Calories: 159 (39).
This might surprise you, as it did me, but peanuts are technically not nuts.
They actually belong to the legume family and are therefore related to beans, lentils, and soy.
They are both nutritious and delicious.
Not only peanuts taste good, but they are also rich in protein, fats, and potassium, which helps regulate the body’s water levels and metabolism. It can also help prevent muscle cramping.
There are even studies showing eating peanuts can help you lose weight (40, 41).
Not surprisingly, peanut butter is also high in protein and included in many weight loss meal plans.
10. Pumpkin Seeds
Serving: 1-oz (28g), Protein: 5g, Fiber 1.7g, Carbs: 5g, Fat: 13g, Calories: 125 (42).
Pumpkin seeds prove good things come in small packages.
They are similar to nuts but without the reaction risk.
Pumpkin seeds are highly nutritious and are a good source of many nutrients. Just eating a few pumpkin seeds provides you with a substantial quantity of proteins, healthy fats, and dietary fiber.
They’re also a good source of vitamin K, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and manganese.
Pumpkin seeds have been associated with several health benefits (43).
These include improvement in heart health, protection against certain cancers and more.
Pumpkin seeds also contain antioxidants like carotenoids and vitamin E (44).
Antioxidants can reduce inflammation and protect cells from harmful free radicals. And because of this, consuming foods rich in antioxidants can help protect against many different diseases.
In one animal study, inflammation was significantly reduced when rats with arthritis were given pumpkin seed oil. Rats given an anti-inflammatory drug experienced negative side effects, whereas rats given pumpkin seed oil had no side effects (45).
11. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are another good example of good things come in small packages.
Adding sunflower seeds to your diet can boost overall nutrients intake significantly.
These small seeds contain healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which research has shown that they may help to lower your heart disease and blood pressure.
Sunflower seeds are also a good source of fiber and protein, both of which help fill you up and keep you full longer. Thereby, it helps to decrease hunger and suppress appetite (46).
Other nutrients they include are vitamin E, folate, copper, thiamin, niacin, iron and more.
Sunflower seeds can certainly make an excellent addition to your healthy diet.
12. Hemp Seeds
Serving: 1-oz (28g), Protein: 9g, Fiber: 2g, Fats: 12, Calories: 161 (47).
Hemp seeds are a credited superfood with cancer and heart disease-fighting properties.
They are exceptionally nutritious and rich in many nutrients including healthy fats, protein, and various minerals.
Hemp seeds are a good source of two essential fatty acids in the right balance, linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3).
They also contain gamma-linolenic acid, which has been linked with several health benefits (48).
Hemp seeds are an excellent protein source, so much so that 25% of their total calories come from protein.
Not only that, but they also contain all of the nine essential amino acids. However, it’s too low in lysine to be considered complete.
Hemp seeds also contain plenty of magnesium, zinc, iron, and calcium. They’re also a rare vegan source of essential fatty acids, like omega-3s, which can help fight depression and improve heart health.
There you have it!
Sometimes good things come in small packages, and that’s definitely the case with “nuts” and “seeds”.
Both nuts and seeds should be part of a healthy diet, but be mindful of serving sizes and how they affect your energy level.
Some people do well with certain types of nuts and seeds but may have reactions to others. So pay close attention to how your body reacts after eating them.
If you don’t like eating nuts raw or just by itself, nut butters are excellent.
Especially peanut, almond, and cashew nuts butter. They’re tasty and have the same nutritional benefits as their full-formed nut buddies but in a super spread form. Just make sure to choose a less processed variety to get the most nutritional benefits.