7 October 2016
Nuts have gotten a bad rap because of their high fat content: but their protein, heart-healthy fats, high fibre, and antioxidant content make them a real super food! The key to enjoying nuts, is portion control. All nuts are healthy in small doses and studies show they can help lower cholesterol levels and promote weight loss.

Eating nuts as part of a healthy diet can be good for your heart because they contain unsaturated fatty acids and other nutrients. They're inexpensive, easy to store and a great snack when you're on the go.

The type of nut you eat isn't that important, although some nuts have more heart-healthy nutrients and fats than do others. Almost every type of nut has a lot of nutrition packed into a tiny package.

Can eating nuts help your heart?

People who eat nuts as part of a heart-healthy diet can lower the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or ‘bad’ cholesterol level in their blood. High LDL is one of the primary causes of heart disease.

Eating nuts may reduce your risk of developing blood clots that can cause a fatal heart attack. They also improve the health of the lining of your arteries.

What's in a nut that’s thought to be heart healthy?

Besides being packed with protein, most nuts contain at least some of these heart-healthy substances:

  • Unsaturated Fats: it's thought that the ‘good’ fats in nuts (both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) lower bad cholesterol levels

  • Omega-3: isa healthy form of fatty acids that seem to help your heart by preventing dangerous heart rhythms that can lead to heart attacks. Omega-3 are also found in many kinds of fish, but nuts are one of the best plant-based sources.

  • Fibre: helps lower your cholesterol and makes you feel full so you eat less. It also is thought to play a role in preventing diabetes.

  • Vitamin E: helps stop the development of plaques in your arteries, which can narrow them. Plaque development in your arteries can lead to chest pain, coronary artery disease or a heart attack.

  • Plant sterols: help lower your cholesterol. They are often added to products like margarine and orange juice for additional health benefits, but sterols occur naturally in nuts.

  • L-arginine: is a substance that may help improve the health of your artery walls by making them more flexible and less prone to blood clots that can block blood flow.

What amount of nuts is considered healthy?

As much as 80 percent of a nut is fat. Even though most of this fat is healthy fat, it's still a lot of calories. That's why you should eat nuts in moderation. Ideally, you should use nuts as a substitute for saturated fats, such as those found in meats, eggs and dairy products. Select raw or dry-roasted nuts rather than those cooked in oil.

A serving is a small handful (1.5 ounces) of whole nuts or 2 tablespoons of nut butter. But again, do this as part of a heart-healthy diet. Just eating nuts and not cutting back on saturated fats found in many dairy and meat products won't do your heart any good.

Does it matter what kind of nuts you eat?

Possibly. Most nuts appear to be generally healthy, though some more so than others. Walnuts are one of the best-studied nuts, and it's been shown they contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts and pecans are other nuts that appear to be quite heart healthy. And peanuts — which are technically not a nut, but a legume, like beans — seem to be relatively healthy.

Keep in mind; you could end up cancelling out the heart-healthy benefits of nuts if they're covered with chocolate, sugar or salt. Here's some nutrition information on common types of nuts. All calorie and fat content measurements are for 1 ounce, or 28.4 grams (g), of unsalted nuts.

Type of nut


Total fat (saturated / unsaturated fat*)

Almonds, dry-roasted


15 g (1.1 g/12.9 g)

Almonds, raw


14 g (1.1 g/12.2 g)

Brazil nuts, raw


19 g (4.3 g/12.8 g)

Cashews, dry-roasted


13.1 g (2.6 g/10 g)

Chestnuts, roasted


0.6 g (0.1 g/0.5 g)

Hazelnuts (filberts), dry-roasted


17.7 g (1.3 g/15.6 g)

Hazelnuts (filberts), raw


17 g (1.3 g/15.2 g)

Macadamia nuts, dry roasted


21.6 g (3.4 g/17.2 g)

Macadamia nuts, raw


21.5 g (3.4 g/17.1 g)

Peanuts, dry roasted


14 g (2g/11.4 g)

Pecans, dry roasted


21 g (1.8 g/18.3 g)

Pistachios, dry roasted


12.7 g (1.6 g/10.5 g)

Walnuts, halved


18.5 g (1.7 g/15.9 g)

*The saturated and unsaturated fat contents in each nut may not add up to the total fat content because the fat value may also include some no fatty acid material, such as sugars or phosphates.

How about nut oils? Are they healthy too?

Nut oils are a good source of omega-3 and vitamin E, but they lack the fibre found in whole nuts. Walnut oil is the highest in Omega-3s. Nut oils contain saturated as well as unsaturated fats. Consider using nut oils in homemade salad dressing or in cooking. When cooking with nut oils, remember that they respond differently to heat than vegetable oils. Nut oil, if overheated, can become bitter. Just like with nuts, use nut oil in moderation, as the oils are high in fat and calories.