Nuts are excellent sources of many nutrients and are worthy of being included in most diets on a regular basis. Peanuts are a legume but are classed as nuts.
Nuts provide protein and are a source of dietary fibre, as well as contributing many vitamins and minerals. They also provide a range of antioxidants that may be valuable for health. Some people avoid nuts because they also contain fat. However, the fats in nuts are predominantly either mono- or polyunsaturated, often dubbed ‘good’ fats. Many studies attest to nuts being beneficial to health, with special benefits for heart health.
Coconut and palm nuts are different in that their fat is mainly saturated. Saturated fats are a recognised risk factor for heart disease. Being plant foods, nuts (like all plant foods) do not contain cholesterol.
Because of their high kilojoule content (due to their fat) nuts should be eaten in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Chestnuts contain very little fat and have less than 30 per cent of the kilojoules of other tree nuts.
A small handful of raw, unsalted nuts (about 30 grams) makes a satisfying, nutritious snack and studies show many health benefits.
Nuts all contain protein and dietary fibre, but different nuts also contribute high levels of specific nutrients. For example:
To get the best array of nutrients, choose a variety of nuts.
Unsalted raw or dry roasted nuts are the best choice. When nuts are roasted, their flavour is more intense and they are more crunchy, however, salt may be added, which could negate some of their health benefits.
Due to their high content of unsaturated fats, 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.
Most nut bars will not have the health benefits of raw nuts, because they contain ingredients such as sugar, honey, cereal, processed fruit pastes, fats and various additives.
Despite all their health benefits, some people are allergic to nuts. This can be to any one or more of the tree nuts, such as almonds, Brazil nuts, macadamias, cashew nuts or pecans, or to peanuts.
Nut allergy seems to be on the increase in Australia and people who are affected should carry adrenaline prescribed by their doctor.
Last Reviewed: 24 September 2013