Small enough to fit into your pocket, mighty enough to deliver a range of vitamins and minerals – the health benefits of eating nuts cannot be ignored. Each type offers a different nutrient punch, so let’s explore the very best.The fountain of youth doesn’t exist, but the food you eat might rank closely. Research shows that your diet can lengthen or shorten your life. Along with moving more, creating meaningful relationships, lowering stress and sleeping well, eating a healthy balanced diet – including this handful of nutty powerhouses – will pack more nutrients into your body and help you live a longer, happier one. Here are four of the best – as well as the health benefits of eating nuts – to get you started.
1. WalnutsBenefits: There’s a reason vegans and veggies love walnuts. They’re the plant source of omega-3s and help keep you feeling full longer. These teeny superfoods have the highest antioxidant activity than any other common nut, thanks to the melatonin, vitamin E and polyphenols (plant compounds) in their papery skins.
What to do with them: Sweet or savoury, walnuts are wonderfully versatile. Whip them into a walnut, date and honey cake, crumble into a muesli, or add a meaty crunch to a salad.
2. AlmondsBenefits: Shelled or blanched, almonds are full of healthy fats, fibre, protein, magnesium and vitamin E. Yes, they are high in fat – but it’s monounsaturated fat, which helps protect your heart by keeping up levels of good cholesterol. Research by the British Journal of Nutrition shows that the health benefits of eating nuts like these also extend to weight loss – around 55g of almonds per day helps your heart and minimises hunger without the risk of weight gain.
What to do with them: A simple bag of almonds is the ideal on-the-go alternative to crisps or chocolate. Or, you can go the extra mile and make your own almond milk.
3. CashewsBenefits: With lower fat content than other nuts, cashews are the perfect source of protein, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc and copper without being detrimental to heart health. They also contain monounsaturated fatty acids, which promote healthy levels of good cholesterol.
What to do with them: These creamy treats make the perfect snack. But they also add a wonderful crunch to many dishes – try sprinkling them over an Asian stir fry or rustic soup.
4. Pine nutsBenefits: Ever heard of linoleic acid? It’s an omega-6 fatty acid that lowers your levels of harmful LDL cholesterol, as well as boosting glucose and insulin metabolism. This 2018 study from researchers at the University of Eastern Finland found that people with the highest levels of linoleic acid in their blood were 43% less likely to die early compared to those displaying the lowest levels. One ounce of pine nuts packs in eight grams of linoleic acid.
What to do with them: Pine nuts are best known for their use in pesto sauce – they’re also brilliant toasted and scattered over the top of your pasta dish. But don’t confine them to the obvious – these healthy fats also add a luxuriously buttery texture to salads, fish dishes, glazed chicken… even ice cream.