Did you know that over 80% of the fat in macadamia nuts is good-for-you monounsaturated fat? A 2008 Pennsylvania State University study found that after 30 days on a macadamia nut-based diet (about 37% calories from fat) participants had lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, compared to participants on a “typical” American diet (about 37% of calories from unhealthy, saturated fats). Macadamia nuts also contain the highest levels known of paimitoleic fatty acid, a beneficial fat also found in fish oils. When eaten as part of a heart smart diet, macadamia nuts can help further reduce the risks for cardiovascular disease. Mahalo!
Trying to slim down? You don’t have to give up your favorite cashews. Eating 1-2 ounces daily shouldn’t add to your waistline. Data from Harvard University’s landmark Nurses’ Health study showed that participants who regularly ate nuts were thinner on average than folks who never ate nuts. The rich taste of nuts may keep hunger at bay longer and may help cut cravings. Cashews are cholesterol-free and high in protein. A great source of iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and selenium, cashews have a lower fat content compared to other tree nuts.
The perfect nut; one serving of almonds (approx. 28g or 1oz) has 13g of unsaturated fat and only 1g of saturated fat. They are high in potassium, calcium and iron. Almonds are a nutritionally dense food, meaning they pack a lot of fiber in a small package. In a 2009 Purdue University study found that the bioaccessibility of vitamin E and the good-for-you fats found in almonds increased significantly when participants chewed the nuts thoroughly, about 40 times per mouthful. Not only were more of the nutrients released and absorbed by the body, but the participants felt fuller faster and longer.
Here’s an odd, but true fact: peanuts are a legume and have more in common with kidney beans than cashews, and packs more protein than other nuts. A great source of fiber, vitamin E, folate, zinc, potassium, and magnesium. Antioxidant powerhouses, peanuts are high in the amino acid arginine─a key component in the body’s synthesis of nitric oxide which boosts blood flow by opening (dilating) blood vessels. A Purdue University study showed that a daily serving of peanuts, not only cut cardiovascular disease risks, but gave a big boost to those participants whose magnesium levels were too low.
Hazelnuts (a.k.a. Filberts) may be a true “super food.” Decide for yourself: they have one of the highest known content of proanthocyanidin (PAC). PAC is a micronutrient with antioxidant capabilities 20 times more powerful than vitamin C, and over 50 times more potent than vitamin E. Hazelnut’s antioxidants bolster the body’s defense against free radicals, including those linked to several types of cancer and other serious diseases. Like all nuts, the nutrients in hazelnuts offer cardioprotective benefits, and make a wonderful addition to a heart smart diet when their monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are substituted for less-healthy saturated fats.
One ounce of pistachios (about 49 kernels) is an excellent source critical vitamins and minerals, particularly copper, manganese, vitamin B6, thiamin, and phosphorus. Like all nuts, pistachios are rich in fiber, are a great source of protein, are cholesterol-free, and are chock full of monounsaturated fats. However, unlike other nuts pistachios contain significant amounts of the carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids are a special type of antioxidant linked to color, and associated with reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration, one of the most common causes of irreversible blindness in older adults.
Good for much more than making pesto. For starters, a pine nut is not a nut. It’s actually the seed from a pine cone. Pine nuts do offer the same cardioprotective benefits as nuts, including high levels of monounsaturated fat, arginine, magnesium, and potassium. They may even aid in weight loss. Pine nuts contain the two chemicals endogenous cholecystokinin (CCK) and glucagon like peptide-1 (GLP-1). In a study conducted by the University of Liverpool researchers found consumers of a pine nut oil supplement not only felt full sooner but it further suppressed their appetite.
Sixty-five percent of the oil in pecans is heart-smart monounsaturated oleic fatty acid. Texas A&M University researchers found that a diet high in this fat may be as effective as a low fat diet that’s high in carbohydrates. Pecans get their cholesterol-lowering super powers not only from fat, but from the presence of beta-sitosterol, a natural cholesterol-lowering compound. Vegetarians take note: pecans are high in protein, and one serving (about 1-2 oz) can take the place of an ounce of meat. Like hazelnuts, pecans have one of the highest levels of antioxidants.
High in selenium, the content of Brazil nuts, unlike most plant-based food, is considered to be a complete protein. This means Brazil nuts, much like meat-based protein sources, have all of the necessary amino acids for optimal human growth. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant, and Brazil nuts have about 2,500 times as much selenium as other nuts. Increased intake of selenium has been tied to lower rates of cancer (particularly prostate cancer) and heart disease. The benefits don’t stop there. Brazil nuts are also high in zinc, a mineral that’s essential for proper digestion and metabolism.
Walnuts have the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids of any tree nut, and are the richest known food source for melatonin, a hormone that protects cells of the body from damage by free radicals. University of Texas researchers found that the nutrients in walnuts may cut delay or lessen the severity of neurodegenerative diseases of aging such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Want more? The Lipid Clinic in Spain found that walnut’s polyunsaturated fats may protect arteries from the harm associated with a meal high in saturated fat, a benefit that unmatched by olive oil. The Food and Drug Administration weighed in by stating that eating 1.5 oz of walnuts daily may reduce the risk of heart disease.