Why You Should Eat More Nuts
People who eat nuts regularly see an impressive number of health benefits. Find out what nuts can do for you, and get nutty with 15 easy recipes.
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Many years ago, I lost a lot of weight on a low-fat diet. In that world, fat-tastic nuts were basically off-limits. How times have changed! Since then, scientists have uncovered numerous health benefits in those tasty, portable tidbits. And it turns out that while yes, nuts have a high fat content, they’re healthy fats, the kind you want to have in your healthy diet. Thanks to all this good news, eating nuts has become a regular part of my day.
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Health benefits of nuts
There’s a reason nutritionists love nuts so much: They’re really, really good for you. Among their beneficial effects:
Weight loss: If you eat an entire jar of honey-roasted peanuts every day, you’re almost guaranteed to have some weight gain. But when researchers look at the effect of eating moderate amounts of nuts on weight loss, they find it can actually help you shed pounds. One detailed analysis found that eating just one additional serving per week can lower your risk of obesity by 5%.
Type 2 diabetes: Almonds, pistachios, and walnuts have all been shown to help people with prediabetes and diabetes manage their blood sugar. One study looked at the nut consumption of people with Type 2 diabetes. It found those who ate at least five servings of nuts a week were significantly less likely to develop cardiovascular disease, the number-one cause of death in people with diabetes.
Heart health: In addition to helping with obesity and Type 2 diabetes, eating nuts also improves other factors that raise your risk of heart disease. For instance, in several studies, cholesterol levels dropped when people ate nuts including almonds, pistachios, walnuts, peanuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, and macadamias. And nuts may also help control blood pressure.
Cancer: Recently, an analysis of data from 33 studies found that people who eat nuts are less likely to develop cancer. For each additional 20 grams of nuts people ate per day (that’s less than an ounce), the risk dropped 10%.
What are the healthiest nuts?
You kinda can’t go wrong when it comes to eating nuts — none of them will actually harm you (unless you’re allergic, of course). That said, some nuts do offer more health benefits than others. These are among the most healthy nuts:
Almonds have so much going for them, it’s hard to list all the good stuff. Highlights include being an excellent source of vitamin E and magnesium, as well as calcium, folate, and fiber.
Brazil nuts are the largest nut you’ll find in the store. One ounce contains more than your daily requirement of the antioxidant selenium.
Cashews provide plenty of copper and magnesium, and their naturally creamy texture means they’re a terrific way to add plant-based richness to sweet and savory recipes.
Hazelnuts get their flavor from a compound known as filbertone. (These nuts are also known as filberts.) They boast ample amounts of monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, copper, and manganese.
Macadamia nuts have a distinctive, buttery texture because they’re loaded with fat — but most of it is good-for-you monounsaturated. They’re also an excellent source of magnesium.
Peanuts may be legumes botanically, but the FDA considers them a nut. They’ve got more protein than any other nut, as well as niacin, fiber, and magnesium. Keep a jar of unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts on hand for topping Asian noodle dishes.
Pecans are a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, and antioxidants. And they’re good for more than just pie — toss some in a salad or crush and use instead of breadcrumbs to coat chicken.
Pistachios get their gorgeous green color from the vision-protecting antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. One ounce also offers almost as much potassium as a small banana.
Walnuts are an excellent source of vitamin E as well as the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) — which puts them among the most heart-healthy nuts. Your body needs essential fatty acids to function properly.
Easy ways to eat nuts all day
Short of grabbing a few nuts when you need a snack (which, hey, nothing wrong with that), using nuts in a recipe is the simplest way to capture some of those amazing health benefits.
Nuts for breakfast
Start your day with nuts, and the protein, fat, and fiber they contain will help keep you feeling full for hours.
I love going into the kitchen first thing in the morning and finding two things: A hot pot of coffee, and breakfast ready to go. If you soak rolled oats overnight in milk (this recipe uses almond milk), in the morning they’ll be soft and delicious. Top with sliced banana and a handful of crunchy pecans for contrast.
If breakfast isn’t waiting for me, a quick whir of the blender means I’ll be eating in just a few minutes. This smoothie bowl has multiple kinds of nuts. The base combines banana, peanut butter, and almond milk (but you can use whatever milk you like), and gets topped with whole almonds, coconut shavings, and granola.
What do you get when you mix rolled oats, dried blueberries, maple syrup, and applesauce with three nuts (almonds, pistachios, and walnuts), three seeds (flax, pumpkin, and sesame) and nut butter? An easy, no-bake, grab-and-go breakfast bar that will keep you satisfied until lunch.
Nutty main dishes
Take advantage of these nutritional powerhouses to make quick, tasty, weeknight dinners.
Finely chopped walnuts, mushrooms, and cauliflower make a plant-based “meat” mixture that mimics the taste and texture of traditional taco filling. Add spices, saute, and serve in hard taco shells for a vegan dinner hearty enough to satisfy meat-eaters.
Ready in just 30 minutes, these bowls are composed of elements so simple they’re almost boring: poached chicken, quinoa, and tons of raw, fresh veggies. What makes them special? The garlicky-gingery-zingy peanut butter sauce you drizzle on top. Add a handful of chopped peanuts for extra pizzazz.
This vegan recipe gets its creaminess from cashews. Soaking them overnight softens the nuts enough that they break down completely in a blender, along with fresh, ripe tomatoes and a bit of tomato paste. After that, the mixture only needs a brief simmer with some olive oil and garlic. The sauce is ready in less time than it takes to cook the pasta.
Salads go nuts
The crunch and flavor of nuts help elevate almost any salad from merely fine to something special.
This exquisite salad tosses carrot ribbons with Moroccan flavors including cumin, fresh mint, and a generous amount of toasted pistachios. Add in salty, crumbled feta cheese, and you’ve got a lovely, light lunch.
This clever salad has just seven ingredients and a dressing made by massaging avocado, lemon juice, and maple syrup into sturdy kale leaves. Adding a full cup of toasted filberts places nuts front and center.
Here’s a nutty rainbow for you: Toss sliced almonds with sliced cabbage, shredded carrots, bell pepper, edamame, and fresh cilantro. Add a peanut dressing (yes, a second hit of nuts!), let it sit for a little while so the flavors can meld, and dig in. If you don’t feel like chopping all those vegetables, just swap in a large bag of slaw mix.
Small and easy to take with you, nuts are a natural, healthy snack. Zhuzh them up with some extra flavors, and they’re never dull.
Who says you need rolled oats to make granola? This protein-packed version skips the grain and uses unsweetened, shredded coconut along with plenty of nuts and seeds — Brazil nuts, pecans, and almonds among them. A little honey and some chopped dried fruit bring the sweetness. Use this to top yogurt or ice cream, or just eat it as-is.
Yup, a savory trail mix. Think about it: If tomatoes are a fruit (and they are), then why not chop up some dried ones and toss with mixed nuts, olive oil, and a variety of Italian herbs and spices? Adding nutritional yeast gives it a cheesy flavor while keeping things vegan.
I love KIND bars — they’re packed with nuts (hooray) and have minimal amounts of sugar. This copycat recipe uses almonds, walnuts, macadamias, seeds, puffed millet, dried fruit, and brown rice syrup to make these portable, nutritious, sweet-and-nutty bars.
Healthy, nutty treats
Walk into any bakery to find an array of indulgent, nut-filled sweets (I see you, pecan pie). But it doesn’t have to be that way. Take advantage of nuts’ nutritious nature to make easy, better-for-you desserts.
Tangy, sweet, and full of protein, these pops combine nothing more than plain yogurt, peanut butter, milk, a splash of vanilla, and a little sugar. Dunk the frozen pops into melted chocolate and sprinkle with crushed peanuts. What kid wouldn’t love this?
This paleo-friendly cheesecake has no actual cheese. Instead, soaked cashews get pureed along with coconut oil and milk, maple syrup, and a splash of vanilla to make a creamy filling. That gets poured into a no-bake crust made from walnuts, more cashews, and soaked dates. Top with berries, chill, and enjoy, thinking of all the saturated fat you saved.
I call these “emergency cookies” — they’re just the thing when you’ve got a hankering for baked goods but don’t want to overdo it. This recipe calls for almond butter, some sugar, and an egg, but I’ve also used peanut butter and cashew butter with delicious results.
Explore plant-based cooking
One more reason you might be eating more nuts is if you're trying to cut back on meat. Learn more about how nuts can fit into a plant-based diet in these next articles.