Nuts: a superfood

Nuts are a healthy food to add to your daily diet, but how many should you eat and how can you get your fill?

Sometimes the healthiest foods are the simplest ones. This is certainly the case with nuts. These energy-dense little nuggets are a great addition to your daily diet, particularly in their most natural form.

“We recommend choosing nuts that are unroasted and unsalted, as [other kinds] can have extra fats and oils,” says Bupa dietitian Gemma Cosgriff.

Are nuts good for you?

In a word: yes.
 
“Most nuts contain mainly monounsaturated fats, are healthy, and their nutritional make-up makes them worth having,” says Cosgriff.
 
While all types of nuts, including macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, pine nuts and others, have nutritional qualities, Cosgriff points to two types of nuts in particular, walnuts and almonds.
 
“Walnuts are a great source of omega-3s, which may be heart protective,” she says. “Walnuts and almonds also have a particular amino acid that might help with reducing inflammation.”
 
Ultimately, however, the best idea is to eat widely from the range of nuts on offer, but have coconut and palm nuts less regularly than other varieties as they are high in saturated fat.

The benefits of nuts

The benefits of nuts are numerous and wide-ranging – here are just a few:
  • Heart health. “A recent review of 27 studies found that regular consumption of nuts may help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes,” says Cosgriff. “Research also suggests that regular nut consumption has a positive effect on your cholesterol profile.” That’s certainly worth grabbing a handful of nuts for.
  • Fibre and protein. There are many reasons for adding more fibre and protein to your diet. “These are great macro-nutrients that you will particularly notice can help you feel nice and full,” says Cosgriff.
  • Weight management. “A small portion can help you feel full and it may stop you snacking on other foods that are less nutrient-rich and easy to overconsume,” says Cosgriff. “Regular consumption of nuts doesn’t seem to cause any weight gain if you manage your portions.”
  • Unsaturated healthy fats. Fats are a necessary part of your diet, but it’s vital to choose the right sources. “Nuts contain the natural source of fat that we should be consuming – a regular, small portion is healthy,” explains Cosgriff.
  • Other nutrients. Nuts are also a good source of folate, calcium, zinc, potassium, magnesium and antioxidants. 
person eating almonds

How many should you eat?

As with any foods, it’s important to be aware of the portions you eat each day.
 
“If you have too much of anything, it takes the place of other nutritious foods,” explains Cosgriff. “The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend 30 grams per day, or around 10 to 15 nuts. This is a really flat portion of nuts in your hand, not a bulky handful.”

Ways to add nuts to your diet

Cosgriff shares these ideas for incorporating more healthy nuts into your diet: 
  • Eat them as they are for a quick and easy snack.
  • Add them as a topping to stir-fries.
  • Add them to your breakfast bowl.
  • Dry-roast them at home and take them to work as a snack.
  • Try making your own nut paste – peanut butter that’s made from 100 per cent peanuts is a tasty addition to meals or snacks. This can be done with other nuts as well.
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