The Healthiest Nuts for Your Body

All nuts are packed with good-for-you fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals. But some types are ideal for your brain, heart, and more.

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Nuts are nature's way of showing us that good things come in small packages. These bite-size nutritional powerhouses are packed with heart-healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Of course, you can get too much of these good things: Nuts are high in fat and calories, so while a handful can hold you over until dinner, a few more handfuls can ruin your appetite altogether. And although nuts are a healthy choice by themselves, they'll quickly become detrimental to any diet when paired with sugary or salty toppings or mixes.

Here's a look at the benefits of different types of nuts, as well as the best packaged products on supermarket shelves.

RELATED: What Are Healthy Fats? These 13 Foods Can Be Great Sources of the Nutrients

01 of 13

Healthiest Nuts for Weight Loss

Almonds, Cashews, Pistachios

All nuts are about equal in terms of calories per ounce, and in moderation, are all healthy additions to any diet. "Their mix of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber will help you feel full and suppress your appetite," said Judy Caplan, RD, a former spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The lowest-calorie nuts per ounce are almonds (24 nuts; 164 calories, 6 grams protein, 14 grams fat), cashews (18 nuts; 163 calories, 5 grams protein, 14 grams fat), and pistachios (47 nuts; 161 calories, 6 grams protein, 13 grams fat), according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Avoid nuts packaged or roasted in oil; instead, eat them raw or dry roasted, said Caplan. (Roasted nuts may have been heated in hydrogenated or omega-6 unhealthy fats, added Caplan, or to high temperatures that can destroy their nutrients.)

Watch the video: 6 Health Benefits of Almonds Every Woman Needs To Know About

02 of 13

Healthiest Nuts for Your Heart

Walnuts

While all nuts contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, walnuts (one ounce or 14 halves contain 185 calories, 18 grams fat, 4 grams protein; data from the USDA) have high amounts of heart-healthy alpha linoleic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in plants. Research has suggested that ALA has a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health, and walnuts are associated with lower rates of heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). The AHA also reported that eating a half cup of these tasty morsels every day can lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (aka "bad" cholesterol).

03 of 13

Healthiest Nuts for Your Brain

Peanuts

Technically legumes but generally referred to as nuts, peanuts are high in folate—a mineral essential for brain development that may protect against cognitive decline. (It also makes peanuts a great choice for vegetarians, who can come up short on folate, and pregnant women, who need folate to protect their unborn babies from birth defects, said Caplan.) Like most other nuts, peanuts are also full of brain-boosting healthy fats and vitamin E, as well. One ounce of peanuts (about 28 unshelled nuts) contains about 166 calories, 7 grams protein, and 14 grams fat, according to the USDA.

04 of 13

Healthiest Nuts for Men

Brazil Nuts, Pecans

Creamy Brazil nuts are packed with selenium, a mineral that may protect against prostate cancer and other diseases. Just one nut contains more than a day's worth, so eat these sparingly: Too much selenium can cause diarrhea, nausea, nail and hair problems, and nervous system problems, according to the National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements. One ounce of Brazil nuts (6 to 8 nuts) contains about 186 calories, 19 grams fat, and 4 grams protein, as per the USDA.

Pecans are also good for men's health: They're loaded with beta-sitosterol, a plant steroid that may help relieve symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlarged prostate. One ounce of pecans (20 halves) contains 196 calories, 20 grams fat, and 3 grams protein, according to the USDA.

05 of 13

Healthiest Nuts for Disease Prevention

Almonds

Relatively low in calories, almonds have more calcium than any other nut, making them a great food for overall health. Plus, they are rich in fiber and vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps fight dangerous inflammation and possibly health conditions such as lung cancer and age-related cognitive decline.

Because they're so versatile, almonds are often a favorite among nut eaters: You can buy them raw, toasted, slivered, or coated with a variety of fun flavors.

06 of 13

Best Snack Packaging for Nuts

Choose 100- to 200-calorie packs

Because nuts are so high in calories (and so tasty, to boot!), it's important to practice portion control when eating them as a snack. We love Blue Diamond Almonds 100-calorie snack packs, available in a wide range of flavors, including Wasabi & Soy Sauce and Toasted Coconut. Want more variety? Pick up Planters NUTrition Wholesome Nut Mix on-the-go packs, each containing a 200-calorie mix of cashews, almonds, and macadamia nuts.

07 of 13

Best Nuts for Chocolate Lovers

Go for cocoa-dusted almonds

Rather than hiding your nuts under a thick layer of sugary chocolate candy—think Jordan almonds or peanut M&Ms—keep it simple with Emerald's Cocoa Roast Almonds. These nuts are lightly dusted with cocoa powder and sweetened with Sucralose, and they have 150 calories, 13 grams fat, and 1 gram of sugar per ounce.

08 of 13

Best Nuts for Your Sweet Tooth

Try all-natural glazed nuts

Want something sweet and satisfying but without the extra calories and high-fructose corn syrup? Look no further than Sahale Snacks glazed nuts in flavors like Almonds with Cranberries, Honey, and Sea Salt (160 calories, 11 grams fat, 5 grams protein per ounce) or Cashews with Pomegranate and Vanilla (150 calories, 10 grams fat, 4 grams protein per ounce). They're sweetened with organic cane juice and tapioca syrup, and each contains only 6 grams of sugar per ounce. Just be careful not to eat the whole bag!

09 of 13

Best Nuts for a Salt Craving

Look for "lightly salted"

If you don't have high blood pressure or haven't been warned away from salt by your doctor for other reasons, a handful or two of salted nuts a day won't hurt you, said Caplan, who has a private nutrition practice in Vienna, Va.

Nuts are, of course, available unsalted. But to satisfy a salty craving without going overboard, look for in-between varieties like Planters Lightly Salted peanuts, almonds, and cashews (45–55 mg sodium), or Wonderful Pistachios Lightly Salted (80 mg). Check ingredient labels, too: Some brands, like Back to Nature Salted Almonds (75 mg sodium), contain less salt than others.

10 of 13

Best Trail Mix

Raw nuts, seeds, and dried fruit

Trail mix is available in countless varieties and from countless brands. "Look for trail mix with raw nuts," suggested Caplan. "Or if the nuts are roasted, look for the words 'dry roasted' rather than 'oil roasted.'"

Nuts pair great with fruit, seeds, and perhaps even a little dark chocolate, added Caplan; just pay attention to the calorie count and serving size. We love Eden's Wild Berry Mix (150 calories, 8 grams fat, 5 grams protein per ounce) of organic almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, raisins, and dried blueberries. If you're more of a granola person, treat yourself to a quarter cup of Bear Naked's Banana Nut mix (140 calories, 7 grams fat, 3 grams protein) with almonds and walnuts.

11 of 13

Best Nut Butter

Keep ingredients simple

When choosing a nut butter, look for spreads with the fewest ingredients possible: Just nuts (and salt, if you want). Arrowhead Mills Organic Peanut Butter, for example, contains 100% dry-roasted peanuts, and has 190 calories, 17 grams fat, and 8 grams protein per every 2 tablespoons. (We also like their creamy cashew and almond butters, which do contain some natural canola oil.) Keep natural peanut butter in the fridge, advised Caplan, to keep it from going rancid and to prevent oily separation.

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Best Way To Eat Nuts

Pair them with a healthy carb

Now you know all about which nuts are good for what—but to get the most health benefits, it's also important to pay attention to how you eat them. "Nuts are a great thing to eat when you're having a carbohydrate like fruit or juice, because it helps slow down digestion and the breakdown of sugar," said Caplan.

A few winning nut-and-carb combos: Sprinkle them on salads, add them to low- or nonfat yogurt, or spread nut butter on slices of apple or pear. On the go? Pick up a 150-calorie pack of Earthbound Farms Dippin' Doubles Apples & Peanut Butter (11 grams fat, 5 grams protein).

13 of 13

Best Nuts Overall

A mixed bag!

So which is the healthiest nut overall? Luckily, we don't have to pick just one. Mixed nuts, ideally raw and unsalted, provide the best variety of nutrients and antioxidants. We like: 365 Everyday Value Roasted & Salted Deluxe Mixed Nuts.

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