Smart Snacking: 6 of the Healthiest Nuts You Can Eat

They may come in small, unassuming packages, but nuts are nutritional powerhouses. Every bite-size morsel is packed with heart-healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. And then there’s the protein. When you’re trying to build muscle, boost your energy, and curb unhealthy cravings, you’ve been programmed to increase your protein intake. When you want something packed with protein you may initially think of a juicy, cheese-laden burger or an extra serving of bacon with your eggs, but there are cleaner, healthier ways to get your fill of protein. A handful of nuts not only curbs hunger and may help you beat cravings for complex carbs and sugar, but it’s portable and requires no cooking time. What’s not to love?

Each nut provides the body with a little something different. To keep it easy, we’ve compiled a list of the healthiest nuts available so you can pick and choose your favorites.

1. Almonds

Almonds

Almonds are one of the healthiest snacks you can choose | iStock.com

If you’re looking for a low-calorie option, almonds are where it’s at. These popular nuts contain 160 calories per ounce and provide you with 6 grams of protein. Unlike getting protein from animal products, almonds help lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease. They’re packed with biotin, vitamin E, fiber, and vitamin B2. Other lower calorie nuts include cashews and pistachios. If you want to keep the calories minimal, avoid any roasted nuts and opt for the raw or dry options instead.

2. Walnuts

walnuts

Walnuts can help protect your heart. | iStock.com

Walnuts are the nuts to choose if you want to decrease your chances of getting life-threatening conditions like heart disease and cancer. On top of that, walnuts ward against premature aging. How, you may ask? These wonder nuts contain the most antioxidants of all nuts, which help protect your body from cellular damage. In addition, the mighty walnut is the richest in omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation. Grab a small handful or 14 halves for an easy 185-calorie boost of energy.

3. Peanuts

peanuts

The humble peanut has a lot to offer. | iStock.com

This go-to snack is one of the most affordable and easy-to-find nuts out there. They can be found in gas stations, at the ballpark, and in bulk at your grocery store. There’s no question that they beat other grab-and-go snacks when it comes to nutrition, especially in their natural, unsalted form. Regardless of how you enjoy them, peanuts are a great energy food as they’re high in protein and dietary fiber. About 35 dry-roasted peanuts without salt provide you with 166 calories, 6.7 grams of protein, and 2.3 grams of fiber. Peanuts are full of antioxidants and can actually reduce your chances of stroke as they increase your natural production of nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels.

4. Pecans

Pecan nuts in wooden bowel

Pecans can help lower cholesterol. | iStock.com/Amawasri

When you think of this nuts, you may automatically think of those gooey pecan pies you know you should avoid over the holidays, but this nut in its natural state may be your heart’s best friend. Pecans are full of plant sterols, which are valuable compounds that effectively lower cholesterol levels. The antioxidants they contain prevent plaque buildup in your arteries and they’re rich in oleic acid, a healthy fat. When you need a mid-afternoon energy boost, pecans are the nut you should reach for. They fight fatigue with vitamin B3.

5. Pistachios

pistachios

Pistachios can give your mood a boost. | iStock.com

In addition to being one of the nuts that contains low levels of calories and fat, pistachios are an excellent source of vitamin B6 (the ultimate mood booster), copper, and manganese. Some studies show that pistachios may play a vital role in heart health, weight management, and longevity. Eat these nuts in their shell to slow down your snacking pace and keep track of how many you’ve consumed.

6. Brazil nuts

a mixture of nuts

Men, make sure you’re eating Brazil nuts. | iStock.com/olgaman

While this nut may not be as common as others, Brazil nuts are the perfect choice for men as they’re packed with selenium, a mineral that may protect against prostate cancer among other diseases. Just one powerful nut contains more than a day’s worth of selenium, so don’t go crazy and eat an entire bag. One ounce of Brazil nuts (approximately 6 nuts) contains 190 calories and 4 grams of fat.