Which Nuts are the Healthiest?

Reviewed by Mgr. Kristýna Dvořáková
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Which Nuts are the Healthiest?
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Nuts are an excellent source of nutrients that easily meet the parameters of a healthy and nutritionally rich food. Virtually all basic types of nuts are sources of healthy fats, fibre and a wide range of vitamins and minerals.

When choosing nuts, many people ask which kind is actually the healthiest. Is it even possible to tell? Let's break down nuts in more detail. What makes each type stand out?

Cashews are an excellent source of magnesium and zinc

Cashews are a clear favourite of many nut lovers, mainly due to their specifically sweet taste, which is a result of their relatively high carbohydrate content. On the other hand, the fat content of cashew nuts is lower, for example, about a third less than that of pecans.

Cashew nuts are notable for their high content of magnesium (more than three‑quarters of the daily dose per 100g), zinc (about half the daily dose per 100g) and copper (daily dose already at about 60g).

Nutritional values per 100g of cashew nuts: 553 kcal, 18g protein, 33g carbohydrate, 44g fat and 3g fibre.

Natural Cashews

Cashews natural

Walnuts surprise with their high omega‑3 fatty acid content

Walnuts are one of the richest sources of healthy fats, making them almost a superfood. However, for the same reason, they also spoil quickly, as the unsaturated fatty acids are prone to rancidity. In any case, walnuts should not taste bitter, as the bitter taste is caused by partially oxidised fatty acids, which are typically produced by improper storage.

Walnuts are also high in omega‑3 fatty acids and are one of the few domestic foods that contain the essential alpha‑linolenic acid (about 9g of omega‑3 fatty acids per 100g of nuts).

Nutritional values per 100g walnuts: 654 kcal, 15g protein, 14g carbohydrate, 65g fat and 7g fibre.

Brazil nuts are the record holder for selenium content

Brazil nuts have a high fat content and also contain a relatively high amount of saturated fatty acids compared to other nuts (about 15g per 100g of nuts, about 5 times more than almonds). They are also a rich source of antioxidants and minerals, which are indispensable for the body.

But what makes them stand out is their high selenium content - one average piece of Brazil nut contains more than the recommended daily allowance of selenium (70‑90 μg of selenium per nut, while the DACH recommended daily allowance is 70 μg per day). Selenium is found in the body in enzymes with antioxidant activity (for example, in the glutathione peroxidase family of enzymes), thus protecting the body from free radical damage.

Nutritional values per 100g of Brazil nuts: 656 kcal, 14g protein, 12g carbohydrate, 66g fat and 8g fibre.

Brazil Nuts

Brazil Nuts

Almonds are packed with fibre and vitamin E

Almonds are a great source of nutrients, containing high amounts of fibre (about 12g per 100 ) and healthy fats, while the amount of saturated fatty acids is very low, practically the lowest compared to other nuts.

Almonds are also one of the richest sources of vitamin E (the recommended daily dose is about 50g), which has antioxidant effects on the body and plays an important role in the process of spermatogenesis.

Nutritional values per 100g of almonds: 575 kcal, 21g protein, 22g carbohydrates, 49g fat and 12g fibre.

Natural Almonds

Almonds natural

Pistachios for taste and eye health

Pistachios are one of the most popular types of nuts, whose mass consumption is perhaps only hindered by their price, which is the highest compared to other types. In terms of nutrient content, pistachios are similar to almonds, which are also very low in saturated fatty acids.

Pistachios are valued for their high content of antioxidants, which are also very bioavailable to the body. Of all nuts, they have the highest levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids that naturally accumulate in the retina of the eye. It is speculated that their function here is to protect the eye from free radicals, which are naturally produced by the absorption of blue radiation from daylight.

Nutritional values per 100g of pistachios: 557 kcal, 21g protein, 28g carbohydrate, 44g fat and 10g fibre.

Dry Roasted Pistachios

Pistachios dry roasted

Hazelnuts are also packed with nutrients

Like other nuts, hazelnuts contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals, including high levels of vitamin E (daily dose is just under 100g), magnesium (about half the daily dose per 100g) and copper (daily dose is just under 100g).

Nor should we forget the high proportion of unsaturated fatty acids, which are also likely to be behind the positive effect on the cardiovascular system observed in a recently published meta‑analysis of a diet enriched with hazelnuts (29‑69g per day) . So if you include hazelnuts in your diet, and it's not through Nutella, your vascular system will definitely benefit.

Nutritional values per 100g of hazelnuts: 628 kcal, 15g protein, 17g carbohydrate, 61g fat and 10g fibre.

Dry Roasted Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts

Peanuts are not nuts but have similar properties

When peanuts are mentioned, it is not unusual for an expert to contribute to the discussion by stating that peanuts are not nuts but legumes. This is as instructive as classifying a watermelon as a vegetable—biologically correct, nutritionally less relevant.

In fact, peanuts are very close in composition to other nuts, with about half of their weight made up of fats with a high proportion of unsaturated fatty acids. They are also relatively rich in protein, containing about 26g per 100g of peanuts due to their leguminous nature and the highest protein content of any nut.

Peanuts are also a source of antioxidants, among which polyphenols, largely represented by para‑coumaric acid, stand out. A useful strategy is not to shell the peanuts, as the skin contains the highest proportion of antioxidant substances.

Nutritional values per 100g peanuts: 567 kcal, 26g protein, 16g carbohydrate, 49g fat and 9g fibre.

Dry Roasted Peanuts

Peanuts dry roasted

Pecans are healthy too, but beware of the higher fat content

High fat is pretty much synonymous with eating nuts, but this is doubly true for pecans. They contain about 72g of fat per 100g, the most of any nut, and not far off the classic butter made from milk fat (which contains 82% fat). However, pecans still contain a large majority of healthy fats, so we don't have to worry about their moderate consumption from a health point of view.

On the contrary, one study has even shown that a diet enriched with pecans (20% of total energy intake = less than 60g of pecans per day) increased the amount of gamma‑tocopherol (one form of vitamin E) in the blood. Scientists hope this will increase the body's protection against dangerous substances, as it is an important antioxidant.

Nutritional values per 100g of pecans: 691 kcal, 9g protein, 14g carbohydrate, 72g fat and 10g fibre.

Natural Pecans

Pecans natural

Comparison of nutritional values of different types of nuts

EnergyProteinCarbohydratesFatsFiberSaturated fatty acidsMono‑unsaturated fatty acidsOmega‑3 fatty acidsOmega‑6 fatty acids
Cashew nuts553 kcal18g30g44g3g8g24g0g8g
Walnuts654 kcal15g7g65g7g6g9g9g38g
Steam nuts656 kcal14g4g66g8g15g25g0g21g
Almonds575 kcal21g10g49g12g4g31g0g12g
Pistachios557 kcal21g18g44g10g5g23g0g13 g
Hazelnuts628 kcal15g7g61g10g5g46g0g8g
Peanuts567 kcal26g7g49g9g7g24g0g16g
Pecans691 kcal9g4g72g10g6g41g1g21g

Comparison of vitamin, mineral and trace element content

Vitamin AVitamin EMagnesiumZincCopperCalciumSelenium
Recommended daily allowance according to DACH1mg men, 0.8 women14mg men, 12mg women350mg men, 300mg women11‑16mg men, 7‑10mg women1‑1.5mg1000mg70 μg men, 60 μg women
Cashew nuts0 IU0.9mg292mg5.8mg22mg37mg19,9 μg
Walnuts20 IU0.7mg158mg3.1mg1.6mg98mg49 μg
Para nuts0 IU5.7mg376mg4.1mg1.7mg160mg1917 μg
Almonds1 IU26.2mg268mg3.1mg1mg264mg2.5 μg
Pistachios553 IU2.3mg121mg2.2mg1.3mg107mg7 μg
Hazelnuts20 IU15mg163mg2.5mg1.7mg114mg2.4 μg
Peanuts0 IU83mg168mg3.3mg1.1mg92mg7.2 μg
Pecans56 IU14mg121mg4.5mg1.2mg70mg3.8 μg

Bottom line

Whichever type of nuts you choose, if stored properly, you won't go wrong nutritionally. All varieties are rich sources of nutrients, containing healthy fats, a high proportion of fibre and a wide variety of virtually all vitamins and minerals.

Of course, even nuts are not flawless, and in some situations, eating them can cause problems. Bitter or astringent nuts are usually a sign of poor storage, during which the oils present are oxidised and should not be consumed. Similarly, nuts stored in a damp environment can develop mould, with aflatoxins being the most common. In such cases, their consumption is harmful to health.

Therefore, choose high‑quality nuts that have been stored properly from proven suppliers. You can also use domestic produce to ensure they have not travelled long distances.

For regular consumption, hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds are the most beneficial in terms of macronutrients, as they are high in fibre, unsaturated fatty acids, and, in the case of walnuts, omega‑3 fatty acids. However, other types of nuts also offer great nutritional benefits and can complement the above‑mentioned nuts perfectly.

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