magnesium in almondsCan a high-fat food really be good for you? A while back I looked at some of the health benefits of common varieties of nuts, but soon realised I’d left out some important and tasty varieties. So this is part two of my list of healthy nuts and the benefits they offer. While they’re generally high in fat and fairly high in calories, nuts are also a great source of protein and contain at least some of these heart-healthy nutrients:

  • Unsaturated fats, both mono- and polyunsaturated fats lower ‘bad’ cholesterol levels, though it’s not entirely clear why.
  • Nuts are one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids; making them good for your heart.
  • All nuts contain fibre, which not only helps lower cholesterol, but also helps make you feel full, so you eat less.
  • Most nuts are a rich source of vitamin E, an antioxidant which helps keep your skin healthy and prevent the development of arterial plaques which are a factor in heart disease.
  • Nuts are a good source of plant sterols, a substance that can help lower cholesterol. Peanuts and almonds are among the best sources. Sterols are one of the ingredients added to spreads that lower cholesterol.
  • Most nuts are rich in L-arginine, an amino acid essential to growth and immunity but which also is used by the body to make arteries more flexible and less susceptible to blood clots.

So one of the healthiest nuts that fits every one of these categories is the almond. A 1oz serving (about 25 kernels) contains 35% of your daily needs of vitamin E, 31% manganese, 20% of riboflavin and magnesium and is also a good source of copper and phosphorus. Great news for vegans too, as almonds have the highest calcium content of all nuts.

Cashew nuts are particularly rich in iron and zinc. This makes them good for tackling fatigue, as iron is critical for delivering oxygen to your cells, and zinc is needed for immune health. They’re also a great source of copper, manganese and phosphorus, as well as magnesium which is thought to protect against age-related memory loss.

Traditionally associated with an old-fashioned Christmas, European chestnuts aren’t just restricted to one month of the year. At just 213 calories per 100g (3.5oz) they are by far the lowest calorie nut, and they contain just 2% total fat as well. A great source of vitamin C and manganese, they make up for their lower protein content by their vitamin and mineral content -and ground chestnuts make a great gluten-free flour, too!

Our next nut isn’t really a nut at all. Pine nuts are seeds from the insides of a variety of pine cones. Sweet and nutrient-rich, they can help significantly lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and are one of the best sources of manganese, which is vital for nervous system functioning. As the base ingredient for pesto sauce, pine nuts are easy to add to your diet, though they taste great raw, too.

Of course, you can get too much of a good things. A serving of nuts eaten as a snack should be no more than 1oz, and try to avoid nuts that have been roasted in oil, as these may have absorbed unhealthy fats or have had their nutrients destroyed by high cooking temperatures.