Nuts — almonds, pecans, cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts, coconuts, chestnuts and hazelnuts — are excellent sources of many nutrients and are worthy of being included in most diets more often than just as salty snacks. Peanuts are a legume but are classed as nuts.
Nuts are high in protein, carbohydrates and fibre, as well as containing many vitamins and minerals. They are also high in fat, a reason many people avoid them. However the fats are mainly mono- and polyunsaturated, known as ‘good’ fats and regarded as being beneficial to health. Coconut and palm nuts are exceptions; their fat is mainly saturated. Saturated fats are a recognised risk factor for heart disease.
Pecans have the highest fat content and chestnuts the lowest.
Nuts are plant foods and do not contain cholesterol.
Due to their high fat content, nuts can become rancid quickly and develop an unpleasant ‘sour’ taste. It is important to buy them fresh. Store shelled nuts in sealed containers in a cool place.
A small handful of raw, unsalted nuts makes a satisfying, nutritious snack.
When nuts are roasted, their flavour is more intense and they are more crunchy. Nuts are often roasted in extra oil and are salted. This makes them more palatable, making it easy to eat too many.
Last Reviewed: 24 May 2002