Are Nuts and Seeds Good For You?
Tasty, filling, and convenient, nuts and seeds are popular foods. They’re high in fat, but does that make them bad for you? Absolutely not. There are plenty of reasons that make nuts and seeds healthy snack options. Let’s dive into the benefits of eating more nuts and seeds.
Health Benefits Of Nuts
What we commonly refer to as nuts are actually a collection of dry, edible fruits or seeds and not botanical nuts - though acorns, hazelnuts, and chestnuts are really nuts. I learned that today too. Moving along.
Nuts are loaded with nutrients. They’re an excellent source of plant-based protein, fiber, and contain large amounts of unsaturated fats, the healthy fats. They also come packed with antioxidants, vitamin E, and key minerals. They’re great for most diets, especially vegan and keto/low carb - though some nuts are much lower in carbs than others.A serving of mixed nuts is typically an ounce, an 1/8th of a cup, which is rather small and makes them ideal as on the go snacks. Be aware that they are very caloric, but because they have so much protein and fiber, you’ll feel rather sated, and likely won’t overindulge.
High In Fiber
Most nuts have plenty of fiber, which is crucial for gut health. Fiber is used by healthy bacteria in your digestive system as a food source. They turn the fiber into beneficial short-chain fatty acids that further protect your body from some metabolic risks. Fiber also slows down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, which can help prevent those sugar crashes. People with metabolic conditions, but most of us in general, should aim to have fiber with each meal to help control blood sugar. The average American only has about 15 grams of fiber a day, and the recommended amount is 25 to 30 grams. We can all benefit from eating more nuts as a fiber source.
Speaking of blood sugar, nuts don’t raise blood sugar very much and are low in carbohydrates. Walnuts and pecans are especially low with only four carbs and one to two net carbs. The sweeter nuts, like cashews, are nine carbs and about eight net carbs. Nuts are therefor, a great substitution for carbohydrates for anyone looking to lower their total carbohydrate intake or those being mindful of their blood sugar.
Rich In Antioxidants And Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Most nuts are rich in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, and other polyphenols. Antioxidants in nuts protect your cells from damage from free radicals, loose hydrogens that are highly reactive. The polyphenols neutralize the oxidative damage and help mitigate the risk of diseases such as heart disease. Nuts also have strong anti-inflammatory properties that help lower chronic inflammation and promote healthy aging.
While high in fat, nuts may help improve your cholesterol. Their ability to lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol is largely due to their high concentrations of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. We all tend to eat more saturated fats than unsaturated fats, so its no surprise that eating a more balanced fat ratio will improve our cholesterol.
On average a serving of mixed nuts will have:
5 grams of protein
16 grams of fat, most of which is unsaturated
6 grams of carbs, this varies greatly from nut to nut
3 grams of fiber
12% of the RDI of vitamin E
16% of the RDI of Magnesium
13% of the RDI of phosphorus
23% of the RDI of copper
26% of the RDI of manganese
56% of the RDI of selenium
Health Benefits Of Seeds
As healthy and amazing as nuts are, seeds might be even more beneficial and nutritious. The reason is simple, seeds have to contain all the starting materials necessary to sprout and develop into plants. When consumed as part of a healthy diet, seeds offer many of the same health benefits as nuts.
They're great sources of fiber, generally having as much as nuts, though some seeds, like flax and chia, have up to three times as much fiber. They are also great sources of plant protein. On average, each serving of seeds (1 ounce) will have about 6 grams of protein, and hemp seeds have closer to 9 grams per serving. It does vary greatly from seed to seed.
They contain the healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that nuts do but have less fat overall than nuts leading to lower calorie counts per serving. Their mineral and vitamin breakdown is diverse and in high concentrations. In addition, their rich nutrient content may provide other health benefits, such as improved energy, mood, and immune function.
The Bottom Line
You can’t go wrong with either nuts or seeds. They both provide many of the same health benefits because of their rich nutrient profiles, high in good fats, protein, fiber, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. As to which is best, that may ultimately come down to your taste preferences and the diet you may be on. Low carb and keto diets will likely stick to the low carb walnuts and pecans, or the high fiber chia and flax seeds. Others may be seeking out the high protein hemp seed. At the end of the day, it won't hurt to add a handful of mixed nuts or seeds into your daily intake. If you’d rather have your nuts or seeds made into something else, then we suggest you bake using a nut flour or seed flour. Check out our almond flour cookies if you haven’t already! We’re also working on launching a sunflower seed spread so stay tuned.