It’s true that nuts are higher in calories than some other foods. A handful of almonds, for example, has three times as many calories as a handful of mini pretzels. But these are hardly empty calories. Certified Nutritionist Monica Reinagel writes, “people who regularly enjoy nuts tend to live longer and have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer.”
Not surprisingly, both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the American Heart Association recommend eating a handful of nuts every day. The key is to keep an eye on your portion size. One serving is only about 1/4 to 1/3 cup. While that may not sound like a lot, nuts fill you up and may lead you to take in fewer calories in the long term.
6 Healthy Nuts to Add To Your Diet
1. Walnuts contain a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid.
Walnuts have particular superpowers. They contain large amounts (2.5 grams per 1 oz. serving) of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid that’s required by the human body. In fact, walnuts are the only nut to contain a significant amount of ALA. Also, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition indicated that consuming a 1/4 cup of walnuts per week could help reduce the risk of developing impairments in physical function.
2. Almonds contain heart-healthy fat.
One ounce of raw almonds (about 23 nuts) contains about 120 calories and 14 grams of fat, of which 8.7 are monounsaturated, the same kind of heart-healthy fat that’s found in avocados and olive oil. Eaten in moderation, monounsaturated fats can have a positive impact on your health. Monounsaturated fat is a key feature of the Mediterranean Diet, a healthy eating plan that’s linked to increased longevity and reduced chronic pain.
Monounsaturated fat also helps lower inflammation and bad low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol while simultaneously increasing healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, lowering heart disease risk. Adding almonds into your diet (unsalted are best) can lower your risk for heart disease and improve cholesterol levels, making them a great snack for older adults.
3. Pine nuts reduce the risk of heart disease.
Considering their nourishing array of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, pine nuts offer a wide variety of health benefits to older adults. Like other nuts, pine nuts are high in beneficial monounsaturated fats, magnesium and vitamin E, which work together to protect the heart. Pine nuts also naturally contain plant sterols, a compound that can help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. Eating tree nuts, including pine nuts, is associated with lower waist circumference, body mass index and blood pressure.
4. Cashews promote eye health.
Move over carrots. One cup of these U-shaped nuts pack 8 micrograms of lutein and zeaxanthin, two powerful antioxidants that when eaten regularly protect eyes from light damage. They may also play a role in preventing age-related macular degeneration.
5. Macadamia nuts support regularity.
Macadamia nuts are worth their weight in nutritional gold. Full of fiber and healthy fats, adding macadamias to your diet is a healthy choice as you age. Just a dozen macadamia nuts can provide up to 10% of recommended daily fiber, so a handful goes a long way in helping digestion and bowel function. Nibbling just 1/2 a cup of macadamia nuts a day can also lower bad cholesterol, and with it, the risk of metabolic illnesses, including diabetes, high blood pressure and related cardiovascular diseases, and inflammation.
Macadamia nuts are also high in thiamin, which is critical for a healthy nervous system, and are chock full of manganese, a mineral essential for building and maintaining healthy bones.
6. Pistachios boost performance in the bedroom.
Packed with nutrients, these little green nuts promote heart health and bone density. As it turns out, eating as little as 100 grams of pistachios a day — about a handful — can actually help in the bedroom too. A Turkish study found that men experiencing erectile dysfunction saw significant improvement when they ate pistachios every day for three weeks. So be sure to keep a bowl on the nightstand.
And while the list of nutrients in pistachios is long, calcium and vitamin K, both critical for maintaining healthy bone density, really stand out. Just one cup of pistachios provides 132 milligrams of calcium and 16.2 micrograms of vitamin K. That works out to more than 10% of the recommended daily intake of each for older adults.
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