By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., November/December 2010
Nuts add flavor and crunch to any meal and they’re chock-full of vitamins, minerals and heart-healthy fats. Need more reasons to love nuts? Certain varieties offer an extra nutritional punch.
Go for the almonds: 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.
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.
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.