Could a Handful of Nuts Dramatically Improve Your Health?

Gooey peanut butter sandwiches and crunchy candy bars, baseball games and cocktail snacks—in America, nuts haven’t exactly been considered health food. Especially during the low-fat craze, health nuts actively avoided nuts. But fat is back in a big way, and we owe nuts an apology. We’re sorry we called you fat. Because, my little mashugana—you’re the good kind of fat. The truth is, nuts are highly nutritious, containing not only hardworking fats, fiber, and protein, but also a broad range of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, which are awesome for your health in many ways.  

  • Nuts keep your heart healthySeveral large studies confirm that regularly munching on nuts can help reduce your risk of heart disease by 30 to 50 percent.
  • Nuts help fight cancerA recent review found that enjoying antioxidant-rich nuts can help cut your cancer risk by 15 percent, along with other diseases.
  • Nuts are brain food. Another big review found that a Mediterranean diet, including olive oil and nuts, helps improve memory and cognition, especially as you get older. Snack on that before your next exam.
  • Nuts can help you lose weight. Healthy fats, protein, and fiber can help you stay full for longer. Pair pure nut butter with a banana, apple, or celery to tide you over until your next meal. 
  • Nuts stabilize your blood sugar. The American Diabetes Association recommends nuts as a healthy snack, to help control blood sugar levels. Shopping marathon? Throw some almonds in your purse.
  • Nuts are back on the menu for moms and kids. Peanuts are a common and deadly allergy for kids, so for years, parents proceeded with caution. But a recent update to the guideline is changing the game, urging parents to introduce nuts early. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says it’s safe for pregnant ladies to keep nibbling on nuts, and the folate may help prevent birth defects.

What’s the Healthiest Kind of Nut?

Almonds always seem to top the superfood lists, but there are lots of other nuts that deserve your love. All nuts contain healthy fats, with slight differences. Almonds are high in protein, calcium, and vitamin E. But walnuts are exceptionally high in antioxidants, and are one of the few plant foods that contains omega-3 fatty acids. Likewise, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, and pistachios all offer a little something special (a single Brazil nut meets your entire day’s need for selenium, an antioxidant!). Bottom line: There is no king of nuts. Snack on what you like, sample them all.

Is Peanut Butter Actually Healthy?

In case you’ve been wondering, yes! Peanuts are healthy, too. Technically a legume, peanuts got a bad rap, but only because they’ve historically been put in processed foods. You won’t find a dietitian eating an old-school jar of peanut butter, made with solidified oils, sugar, and salt. But natural and fresh-grind nut butters are easy to find now, and absolutely delicious.

10 Tasty Ways to Get Cracking

Nuts are high in nutrients and calories, so skip salted and candied nuts and stick to a small, closed-fist handful. But enjoy that handful! Every day! Your heart, mind, waistline, and future children will thank you. Running out of ideas to use up that jar of nut butter? Stuff your cheeks with these nutty ideas.  

  • Dip a banana or apple slices into almond butter.
  • Spread peanut butter on celery for the kid classic.  
  • Add a dollop of cashew butter to your smoothie, for a protein boost.
  • Spread almond butter on toast, and pile on sliced strawberries. 
  • Coat fish fillets with crushed pistachios, for a nutty crust.
  • Romance a glass of red wine with some smoked almonds.
  • Satisfy your sweet tooth with toasted hazelnuts and dark chocolate.

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