mixed nuts

Why not go nutty over nuts? Chock full of heart-healthy fats (the kind that lower that bad “LDL” cholesterol) and other nutrients, those nuts you like to munch on are a superfood that’s super good for you.

A bowl of mixed nuts offers oodles of equally scrumptious varieties to choose from, but before you grab a handful you might want to consider how nuts match up—nutrition wise—to each other. Here’s our top five healthiest nuts. Is your favorite in the mix?

Walnuts

While all nuts offer heart health benefits, walnuts pack a double whammy. Walnuts are the only nuts that provide a significant amount of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linoleic acid, a compound that helps reduce plaque buildup in arteries and fights heart disease. Studies have also linked walnuts with stronger bones. Take that dairy.

Almonds

It’s nuts how much nutrition is packed into this tiny package. Almonds are high in calcium, fiber, magnesium, potassium, copper, protein and vitamin E. They contain more vitamin E than any other nut—just one ounce of almonds holds half your daily vitamin E needs. To top off their health benefits, almonds are also high in antioxidants. These superfood nuts will fill you up fast.

Macadamia Nuts

Chock full of fiber, protein and healthy fats, these nuts will give you an energy boost any time you’re feeling sluggish. They contain the most saturated fats of all nuts, but it’s the good fat, the kind that lowers the “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. Munch on these babies for breakfast to give some oomph to your morning.

Pecans

Dreaming of pecan pie? Don’t feel too bad about your dessert fantasies. At least those delicious pecans are healthy! Those bad boys supply more than 19 vitamins and minerals and are an especially good source of antioxidants; the disease fighting compounds that lower bad cholesterol. Pecans are also packed with protein.

Hazelnuts

Rich in heart healthy nutrients such as vitamin E, folate, B vitamins and arginine, hazelnuts may help reduce the risk of heart disease. These tasty nuts also have a high content of proanthocyanidins—a fancy name for powerful antioxidants that strengthen blood vessels and may prevent urinary tract infections.

Other notable nuts:

Peanuts: Contrary to their name, peanuts aren’t actually nuts at all, but legumes. Tricky, tricky. While they don’t contain as many nutrients as nuts, they’re a good source of fiber and protein.

Brazil nuts: Just one Brazil nut provides your daily dose of selenium, an antioxidant that fights free radicals and may play a role in preventing breast cancer. Brazil nuts are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Pistachios: Good for your peepers, pistachios contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which help maintain healthy vision. Pistachios are also rich in potassium and protein. One ounce of pistachios contains more protein than an egg!

To get the maximum nutritional boon out of your nuts, always eat them raw. Roasted nuts contain added sodium and the roasting process may reduce those heart-health perks found in most nuts. Also, even though your taste buds will enjoy it, munching on nuts coated in chocolate, yogurt or sugar kind of, err, cancels out the health benefits. So does over indulging. 

image: Alt-n-Anela

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