There’s a lot of confusion surrounding nuts. Read in some places and they’re touted as a miracle food. Read elsewhere and you’ll worry about the amount of omega-6 oil and phytic acid in them. Are pecans good for you? What about walnuts? And what is it with peanuts having the word “nuts” in them, but not actually being nuts? If you’re nuts about nuts, or just going nuts, read on for some health facts that will help set you straight on the basics:
Let’s get this one out of the way immediately. Peanuts are legumes, not nuts. Nuts grow on trees: legumes grow on the ground. But in common parlance we simply don’t make this distinction. Peanuts go with nuts, and we love them. Between 2008 and 2014, Americans ate about 120 million pounds of peanut butter a year, and 90% of households in the United States are eating it regularly. So what’s good about it?
Well, peanuts are popular precisely because they provide a fast and cheap way to get protein (7.3 grams per ounce) and fiber (2.4 grams per ounce). That’s great: just don’t overdo it on the peanut butter. But like most real nuts, the fat in peanuts is overwhelmingly omega-6, so eat it in moderation. Roasted peanuts are great, but eating peanuts in peanut butter form makes it really hard not to overeat.
Are pecans good for you? Absolutely: in the right applications. Pecans lower LDL oxidation in women and improve lipid profiles in everyone. And a study out of Loma Linda University found that antioxidants in the bloodstream were increased for 24 hours after eating pecans. The main thing to worry about here is the way pecans are normally packaged: covered in enormous amounts of sugar, and drowning in corn-syrupy pies. Find pecan recipes that don’t use all that sugar and you can enjoy the pecan benefits without guilt. Are pecans good for you? Indeed; so got get some.
These are some of the best nuts around in terms of nutrition. They’re high in vitamin B1 and have a decent amount of fiber. They also have a lot of manganese and a good dose of thiamine, copper, and iron: all trace minerals that are difficult to get in other places. Also macadamia nuts are low in phytates, which means they don’t need to be dried or soaked to avoid getting too much. Low in pesticide residue, low in omega-6 fats: this nut is one of the best.
Ok, the bad news first. Walnuts are pretty high in poly-unsaturated fatty acids, so if you’re eating these by the gross ton you might want to stop. But assuming you’re eating a handful here and there as a snack or on salad, there’s nothing to worry about. They are high in protein and copper and manganese, and they’ve got some decent iron and magnesium, too. There’s also some evidence that they help lower oxidative stress and improve cardiovascular disease risk. So enjoy some walnuts: because also? They’re delicious.
You might want to eat these just because of the color, but there’s other good reasons to eat them, too. You’ll get lots of protein, decent amounts of B1 and B6, copper, and iron. Plus they seem to have a good effect on gut flora. The main concerns with these nuts are pretty much just allergies and the possibility of giving up in frustration because the shells are hard to get off.
So eat your nuts! Harvard research says that two servings a day is helpful in fighting cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and in Spain they’ve found that, despite the calories in cashews, people who ate nuts at least two times a week were 31% less likely to gain weight than those who never ate nuts. So if you’re wondering about macadamia nut benefits or are pecans good for you, wonder no longer. Go have a handful.