I read somewhere once that, “nuts are nature’s way of showing us that good things come in small packages.” Ha! The nutritionist in me loves this because I am….nuts for nuts. These bite size snacks are nutritional powerhouses; they are known for their anti-inflammatory nature and are packed with heart-healthy fats, proteins, flavonoids, fiber, vitamin and minerals. Some research has even linked nuts to reducing the risk of chronic diseases due to the potency and variety of plant chemicals that they contain. Long story short, nuts deliver a lot of nutrition in a tiny little package.

Now, I think it’s important to note that it is possible to get too much of a good thing. Nuts can be high in fat, calories and salt so making smart choices regarding portion size and nut variety is important. In terms of serving size, I always remind my clients that while yes, nuts are a healthy choice, they are dense in calories. Depending on which variety you choose, an ounce of nuts equals about 200 calories.

And what a variety there is! Tree nuts include Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pistachios, and pine nuts. Walnuts, almonds and pecans, are technically “drupes” which means they are fleshly fruit on the outside and a have a hard-shelled pit on the inside. Peanuts are legumes, but have nutritional benefits similar to tree nuts. It’s hard to say which nut is the “healthiest” so much like consuming fruits and vegetables, I think variety is the spice of life!

I recently read a nutritional study that outlined the “healthiest” nuts. Here’s what it said…..

Almonds have as much calcium as milk, and contain magnesium, vitamin E, selenium and lots of fiber. They can lower cholesterol and help prevent cancer and always make the list of foods that help with inflammation.

Walnuts not only taste great but are a great rich source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and an excellent source of hard to find omega-3 fatty acids which are SO important.  Extremely good for your heart and brain, walnuts contain ellagic acid a cancer-fighting antioxidant. Walnuts are also great for naturally fighting inflammation. So much so that doctors often encourage those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis to up their walnut intake!

Pecans have tons of vitamins and minerals like Vitamins E and A, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, B vitamins, and zinc. And they help lower cholesterol.

Brazil Nuts are a good source of protein, copper, niacin, magnesium, fiber, vitamin E, and a great source of selenium.

Cedar Nuts/Pine Nuts have Vitamins A, B, D, E, P and contain 70% of your body’s required amino acids.

Cashews are rich in minerals like copper, magnesium, zinc, iron 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 your heart. According to Dr. Andrew Saul, one big handful of cashews provides 1000-2000 milligrams of tryptophan, which rivals prescription antidepressant Prozac. Cashews are another great choice when it comes to foods that naturally help with inflammation.

According to this peer-reviewed study, roasting almonds doubled the antioxidant activity and phenolic compounds in almond skins, better than freeze drying or oven drying.

If you ask me, you can choose any of the above and not go wrong. When my clients ask me for healthy snack options, I always offer up nuts! I love the crunch factor that nuts provide. Whenever I’m craving potato chips, I turn to nuts to curb that craving. It works every time!

On a daily basis you will find containers full of peanuts and organic raisins or almonds that I’ve roasted at home in my bag or purse to eat in a pinch when I’m running around town. As a substitute for a busy week when I haven’t had time to put together my own, I like to keep little packs of these 100 calorie nut variations with me. When my energy gets low, when I feel like I’m definitely going to need something to hold me over until my next meal, these always do the trick. You can buy them here or at your local grocery store.

Nuts are also great when added to yogurt or cereal in the morning. Just a sprinkle of any of the above mentioned nuts can add flavor, texture, and nutrition to any boring old breakfast. I like to add around a half of an ounce of nuts to my salads at lunch time as well. The addition of the fiber and protein that nuts provide really makes me feel more satiated and I swear I stay full longer.

In a nutshell, (ha!) let yourself go nuts for nuts! Remember to always reach for them in moderation, choose nuts that have no salt, oil or flavors added and are minimally processed. And of course, try to incorporate them into your diet that’s already rich with wholesome foods, fruits and vegetables. As always, enjoy! Xx Janine