Nuts are among the best sources of plant-based proteins. According to a 2017 review study, a diet rich in nuts may help prevent risk factors, such as inflammation, for some chronic diseases.
In this article, we recommend the most healthful types of nut to eat based on their protein content and the other nutritional benefits that they offer.
Six most healthful nuts
The following list ranks six types of nut in order of protein content and discusses their other nutritional benefits. The nutrient measurements in each list are for 100 grams (g) of raw nut.
Peanuts are often more affordable than other types of nut.
Eating peanuts is an excellent way for people to boost the amount of protein in their diet. Peanuts are widely available and provide several essential nutrients.
Although peanuts are technically a legume, which means that they belong to a group of foods from a specific plant family, most people consider them as a nut.
Peanuts contain a range of polyphenols, antioxidants, flavonoids, and amino acids. Research has shown all of these components to be beneficial to human health.
According to the nutrient database that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has created, 100 g of peanuts contains 567 calories and the following quantities of other nutrients:
- protein: 25.80 g
- fat: 49.24 g
- carbohydrate: 16.13 g
- fiber: 8.50 g
- sugar: 4.72 g
The fats in peanuts are mainly healthful monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), although these nuts do contain a smaller amount of saturated fats.
There are also plenty of minerals in 100 g of peanuts, including those below:
- calcium: 92 milligrams (mg)
- iron: 4.58 mg
- magnesium: 168 mg
- phosphorous: 376 mg
- potassium: 705 mg
Peanuts also offer the benefit of being more affordable than many other nut varieties.
Almonds have become increasingly popular in recent years, and they are now readily available in many places. They contain slightly less protein than peanuts, but make up for it with other nutrients.
Almonds may be the perfect snack for people who are looking for a healthful, protein-rich alternative to potato chips or pretzels.
According to the USDA, each 100 g of almonds contains 579 calories and has the following nutritional profile:
- protein: 21.15 g
- fat: 49.93 g
- carbohydrate: 21.55 g
- fiber: 12.50 g
- sugar: 4.35 g
Most of the fats in almonds are monounsaturated fats. Almonds are also rich in vitamins and minerals, such as:
- calcium: 269 mg
- iron: 3.71 mg
- magnesium: 270 mg
- phosphorous: 481 mg
- potassium: 733 mg
- vitamin E: 25.63 mg
Pistachios contain plenty of protein and other vital nutrients. They are also a source of healthful fatty acids and antioxidants.
The popular green nut is technically a seed of the pistachio tree, but people generally view it as a nut due to its appearance and feel.
A study published in Nutrition Today noted that eating pistachios has a beneficial effect on blood pressure and endothelial function, which may lead to a reduced risk of heart-related health issues.
According to the USDA database, every 100 g of pistachios contains 560 calories and the following nutrient quantities:
- protein: 20.16 g
- fat: 45.32 g
- carbohydrate: 27.17 g
- fiber: 10.60 g
- sugar: 7.66 g
Healthful monounsaturated fatty acids and PUFAs make up most of the fat content in pistachios.
While pistachios offer fewer minerals than some other nuts, they contain a substantial 1,025 mg of potassium per 100 g.
Other notable vitamins and minerals in pistachios include:
- calcium: 105 mg
- iron: 3.92 mg
- magnesium: 121 mg
- phosphorous: 490 mg
Cashews are rich in monounsaturated fats.
Cashews have a creamy texture that makes them a great addition to many dishes and snacks.
As reported by the USDA, 100 g of cashews contains 553 calories and the following nutrients:
- protein: 18.22 g
- fat: 43.85 g
- carbohydrate: 30.19 g
- fiber: 3.30 g
- sugar: 5.91 g
Most of the fats in cashews are monounsaturated fats.
The important vitamins and minerals in cashews include:
- calcium: 37 mg
- iron: 6.68 mg
- magnesium: 292 mg
- phosphorous: 593 mg
- potassium: 660 mg
Walnuts are higher in calories than some other nuts despite being lower in carbohydrates than many of them. The high calorie count is due to the very high fat content.
However, the fats in walnuts are predominantly PUFAs, which may offer several health benefits.
While walnuts are known for their healthful fat content, they are a good source of protein and other nutrients as well.
Along with 654 calories per 100 g, the USDA list walnuts as containing:
- protein: 15.23 g
- fat: 65.21 g
- carbohydrate: 13.71 g
- fiber: 6.7 g
- sugar: 2.61 g
Walnuts have a slightly lower mineral content than other nuts:
- calcium: 98 mg
- iron: 2.91 mg
- magnesium: 158 mg
- phosphorous: 346 mg
- potassium: 441 mg
Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition states that walnuts are also a rich source of flavonoids and phenolic acid.
Hazelnuts have a distinctive flavor that makes them a favorite in sweet foods.
Hazelnuts contain less protein than other nuts but may make up for it with other health benefits.
According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology, hazelnuts may help reduce cholesterol.
In the USDA database, 100 g of hazelnuts contains 628 calories as well as the following:
- protein: 14.95 g
- fat: 60.75 g
- carbohydrate: 16.70 g
- fiber: 9.7 g
- sugar: 4.34 g
This protein and fat content makes hazelnuts more similar to walnuts than to other types of nut.
The majority of fats in hazelnuts are monounsaturated fats, but they include some polyunsaturated and saturated fats in addition. Hazelnuts also contain the following:
- calcium: 114 mg
- iron: 4.70 mg
- magnesium: 163 mg
- phosphorous: 290 mg
- potassium: 680 mg
How to add nuts to your diet
People can increase their nut intake in different ways to get more plant proteins. Below are some examples of ways to incorporate nuts into the diet:
Add them to trail mix
Trail mix is a healthful snack that can include nuts.
Roasted, salted nuts can add flavor and satiety to a savory trail mix, which can replace less healthful snacks, such as chips. However, it is still best to moderate portion sizes due to the added salt and high calorie content.
Raw nuts are also a healthful and nutritious addition to a sweet trail mix that includes dried fruits. People with the urge to eat a candy bar or another sweet snack might find that sweet trail mix can curb their cravings.
People on low-carb or low-sugar diets should keep in mind that dried fruits can have a high sugar content.
Eat them as a snack
Nuts are generally ready to eat, making them the ideal snack at nearly any time of the day. However, it is important to bear in mind that, although nuts contain healthful fats, they tend to be high in calories.
Drink nut milk
Nut milk does not have the same properties as cow’s milk, but it may keep some of the flavor and benefits of the whole nuts.
Many grocery stores sell nut beverages, or people can make simple versions of nut milk at home to avoid added ingredients. Examples include almond milk, cashew milk, and hazelnut milk.
Use nut butters
Along with peanut butter, many other types of nut butter are available at markets and grocery stores. People can add them to sandwiches or smoothies.
Sprinkle them on a salad
Adding a serving of nuts to a salad can boost its protein and nutrient content and make it more filling.
Can you eat too many nuts?
Eating nuts is beneficial for health as they may protect against risk factors for heart disease and other health conditions. However, it is possible to eat too many nuts.
Nuts are very high in calories, so eating a large number of nuts throughout the day can cause people to exceed their target calorie intake without realizing it. Doing so regularly may lead to weight gain.
Nuts are also high in healthful fats, which are good for the body in moderation but can cause diarrhea and other issues in excess.
Roasted, salted nuts can add at least as much sodium to the diet as other salty snacks. Anyone eating salted nuts should pay attention to the label to see how much sodium they are eating. Raw or dry-roasted nuts are a more healthful alternative.
Some people may find that nuts upset their digestive system. In this case, eating too many nuts may cause them to feel gassy, cramped, or bloated. Nuts are also a common dietary allergy.
When to see a doctor
In most cases, nuts are a safe and healthful addition to the diet. Moderation is key, as nuts are calorie dense.
Anyone who experiences digestive upset from eating nuts may want to see a doctor. They may have an intolerance or be sensitive to specific components of nuts. Nuts are a common allergen, and it is possible for people to develop an allergy that they did not have before.
Anyone having an allergic reaction, such as swelling or itching in the throat or face, should stop eating nuts and get urgent medical care. Severe nut allergies can sometimes be fatal.