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4 of the healthiest nuts to pick at the party

By Michelle Edelbaum, December 3, 2010 - 12:07pm

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If you’re eating with my husband and me you need to be quick to get what you want when it comes to certain foods. He’s a chunk hunter and I’m a cherry picker. His ice-cream-scooping power has laserlike accuracy when it comes to finding and extracting the delectable bits of sinfulness from cookie-, candy- and swirl-packed ice creams. When it comes to nuts, I like to scavenge around the nut bowl to pick out just the varieties I want to eat. (Yes, I’m that girl.)

Related: 5 Super-Easy and Tasty Spiced Nuts Recipes

Turns out my habit may have some health benefits. All nuts are packed with heart-healthy fats. But some picks rise about the rest in terms of nutrition benefits, as Caitlin Chapman wrote about in the November/December issue of EatingWell Magazine. Here are 4 of the healthiest nuts to eat. (FYI to peanut lovers—they're a healthy choice too but we didn't consider them in this roundup because they're technically legumes.)

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Walnuts (185 calories per 14 halves or 1 ounce) are the only nuts that offer a significant amount of the omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA’s anti-inflammatory properties halt plaque buildup in the arteries that results when “bad” LDL cholesterol is oxidized. The omega-3 is also linked with improved glucose control and stronger bones. In a study of 23 overweight people published in 2007 in Nutrition Journal, increasing intake of ALA via walnuts and flaxseed oil decreased the rate of bone breakdown.

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A 1-ounce serving (23 nuts, 162 calories) has 37 percent of your daily value for vitamin E—a nutrient many Americans fall short on. You’ll also get calcium, fiber and some folate. A June 2006 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed an ounce of almonds provides as many flavonoids—compounds that fight free radicals and reduce inflammation—as a 1/2-cup serving of broccoli or a cup of green tea.

Pecans (19 halves, 193 calories per serving) contain more antioxidants—compounds that sweep up tissue-damaging free radicals—than any other tree nut, according to a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Pecans also provide notable amounts of zinc, a mineral most often found in animal-based foods.

A 1-ounce serving of pistachios—a generous 49 nuts!—has only 157 calories. Pistachios are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants linked with healthy vision.

Recipes to Try: 5-Spice Pistachios and More Delicious Recipes with Pistachios

What is your favorite nut? Tell us what you think below.

TAGS: Michelle Edelbaum, Health Blog, Health, Nutrition

Michelle Edelbaum
Michelle is the digital director for EatingWell. She puts her background in journalism to work at to help deliver daily inspiration for eating healthy.

Michelle asks: What is your favorite nut?

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