A Score Card for Nuts

assorted nuts

(HealthCastle.com) Nuts are undoubtedly nutritional powerhouses. Not only are they one of the best sources of plant-based protein, they are also rich in fiber, phytonutrients, and antioxidants such as Vitamin E and selenium, as well as omega-3 fats. No wonder they have been shown by many researchers to lower the risk of heart diseases. However, nuts are not all the same when it comes to their nutrient profiles

Scorecard for Nuts

The Nutty Face-Off (1 oz. servings of the edible portion)

Highest in Fat and Calories

  • 1st Place: Macadamia Nut - 22 g fat, 204 calories
  • Runner-up: Pecans - 21 g fat, 201 calories

If you are watching your weight, you might want to include fewer macadamia nuts and pecans in your nut mixes. Opt for the lowest calorie nut - the pistachio (13 g fat and 162 calories) - instead.

Most Omega-3 fats

  • 1st Place: Walnuts - 2.57 g
  • Runner-up: Pecans - 0.28 g

The type of omega-3 fatty acid present in most nuts is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which has been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol, and lower blood triglycerides and blood pressure. Walnuts are actually the anomaly when it comes to ALA content, as most other nuts don't have such a high level. The distant second, pecans, only offer 0.28 g per ounce of nuts.

Most Fiber-Rich

  • 1st Place: Almonds - 3.3 g
  • Runner-up: Pistachios - 2.9 g

Nuts are a great option if you are looking for a high-fiber snack. One ounce of almonds (roughly 23 almonds) contains 3.3 g fiber, making it painless to increase your fiber intake.

Top Calcium Source

  • 1st Place: Almonds - 75 mg
  • Runner-up: Brazil Nuts - 45 mg

Although you probably will not be meeting your daily calcium requirement by munching on nuts alone, every single bit counts. Almonds and Brazil nuts are great choices for plant-based calcium.

Most Abundant in Vitamin E

  • 1st Place: Almonds - 7.43 mg (11 IU)
  • Runner-up: Hazelnuts - 4.26 mg (6 IU)

Nuts are also a renowned source of Vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant, scavenging for free radicals that can damage cells and contribute to cardiovascular disease and cancer. An ounce of almonds will provide half of your daily requirement for Vitamin E (15 mg/day or 22.4 IU).

Top Antioxidant Power (ORAC)

  • 1st Place: Pecans - 5980 umol TE
  • Runner-up: Walnuts - 4514 umol TE

ORAC is a scale that quantifies the antioxidant capabilities of various foods. The ORAC of 19 pecan halves is higher than half a cup of pomegranate juice (5853 umol TE). That's not a bad way to add more antioxidant power to your day.

The Bottom Line

All nuts are nutritious, but they are not made equal. Almonds scored high in fiber, calcium, and Vitamin E, while walnuts' omega-3 fat content is unparalleled. While nuts make nutritious snacks, they are also high in fat and calories. Choose unsalted, unflavored, and dry-roasted (versus oil-roasted) varieties, and enjoy up to 1.5 oz. of nuts daily.

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HealthCastle, founded in 1997, is the largest online nutrition community run by Registered Dietitians. Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or dietitian. Information and statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.