The Eight Best Nuts for Your Diet


As a health-conscious eater, nuts have been an important part of my diet for years.

Just eat 5 or more ounces of nuts per week will substantially lower your risk of heart disease and death.

They are particularly a great source of protein, fiber, and omega-3s (healthy fats). Undoubtedly, they are one of the healthiest foods there are for your heart and brain. In fact, a handful of nuts a day can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by around 20% (1), thanks to their richness of unsaturated fatty acids and other vitamins and minerals. They are a nutritional powerhouse and make powerful healthy snacks on the go.

But not being a vegetarian or vegan myself for much of my life, I’d never had the urgency or need to rely on plant-based foods like nuts for a majority of my protein and omega-3 fatty acids. There were fish and eggs for that!?That changed this summer when I decided to go vegan for a month and went completely herbivore. (Suddenly, treating nuts as one collective protein-rich fat source wasn’t good enough for me.) I needed to be more selective in what nuts to eat and for how much. I had to rely on very foods like nuts for the protein and healthy fats while staying conscious of my calorie intake just like everyone else.

After all, nuts do contain hefty calories (whopping 200 calories in one serving of pecans!) and can quite easily and quickly break my daily calorie budget when eaten in excess. To be a successful vegetarian or vegan, using nuts strategically to power up and properly fill my daily nutritional needs became critically important. There is certainly a right and wrong way of going vegan (nutritionally speaking!) and knowing each nut’s nutrition profile and finding out which nut gives you the best nutritional bang for your calorie buck became my first mission.

So, here’s a quick nut list and how they stack up against each other. The nutrition info is per ounce. Note that there is no RDA percentage for protein. It’s left blank since everyone’s daily recommended protein intake is different. Harvard Medical School (2) suggests you calculate your own protein requirement by multiplying your weight in pounds by 0.36.


Almonds are an excellent source of protein, packing in 6 g per serving. This can be as much as 15% of your daily protein intake depending on your needs. Almonds also contain vitamin E, an important vitamin for maintaining healthy skin, hair, and nails. Vitamin E also helps to protect your cell membranes from damage, help you lose weight, and lower your blood pressure when combined with a healthy diet. Almond is considered the most nutritionally dense nut, meaning they offer the most overall nutrients per ounce.

  • Calories = 162
  • Fat = 14g (9 of which are monounsaturated fat, the same heart-healthy fat found in olive oil).
  • Fiber = 4g (14% of the RDA)
  • protein = 6 g (13% of the RDA for a sedentary woman)
  • vitamin E = 7.3 mg (37% of the RDA)
  • Manganese = 0.6 g (32% of the RDA)
  • Folate = 14 mg (3% of the RDA)
  • Magnesium = 76 mg (20% of the RDA)
  • Calcium = 74 mg (7% of the RDA)
  • Iron = 1 mg (6% of the RDA)
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Almonds can be eaten raw in salads or added to smoothies for a nutty flavor. It can also be made into a paste and used as almond butter.


Cashews are the third most-consumed tree nut in the United States and are abundant with monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are associated with reduced cardiovascular disease risk (3). The research on cashews continues to grow, and as more and more studies analyze their potential benefits, consumers are given further reason to include them in their diet.

Cashews compared to other nuts are slightly lower in calories while still providing 5 grams of protein per serving. They are also considered to be an excellent source of magnesium, a mineral that helps with building proteins and overall energy. They also contain phosphorous, another essential mineral for building strong bones and teeth. They also contain a small amount of iron for keeping your skin, hair, and nails healthy.

  • Calories = 155
  • Fat = 12g (2g sat)
  • Fiber = 1g (4% of the RDA)
  • protein = 5g
  • vitamin E = 0.6 mg (3% of the RDA)
  • Manganese = 0.5 g (23% of the RDA)
  • Phosphorus = 166 mg (17% of the RDA)
  • Folate = 7 mg (2% of the RDA)
  • Magnesium = 81.1 mg (20% of the RDA)
  • Calcium = 0.3 mg (1% of the RDA)
  • Iron = 1.9 mg (10% of the RDA)

Same as almonds, cashews can be eaten raw by themselves or in salads. You can also make cashew milk.

Macadamia Nuts

One of our favorite nuts is macadamia. You can find them in chocolate, cookies, and even in dressings and sauces, in Hawaii. They have a buttery flavor that just adds richness to any dishes and desserts, and that’s not surprising, considering macadamia nuts contain 21g of fat per ounce. They are one of the fattiest nuts with high calories and sadly lower protein content. With that said, these tropical nuts are a rich source of essential vitamins and minerals including fiber, vitamin A, iron, B vitamins, and folate. They also contain antioxidants like polyphenols and monounsaturated fats which help to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. They are delicious but eat sparingly!

  • Calories = 201
  • Fat = 21g (3g saturated fat)
  • Fiber = 2g (10% of the RDA)
  • protein = 2g
  • vitamin E = 0.6 mg (3% of the RDA)
  • Manganese = 0.2 g (1% of the RDA)
  • Folate = 3.1 mg (1% of the RDA)
  • Magnesium = 36.4 mg (9% of the RDA)
  • Calcium = 0.3 mg (1% of the RDA)
  • Iron = 1.9 mg (6% of the RDA)


Hazelnuts are fiber rich nuts with a decent amount of protein with less than 200 calories per serving. They are a good source of potassium, calcium, and magnesium. These minerals are known to help regulate a healthy blood pressure (4). They also contain B vitamins which are important for proper cells and energy metabolism.

  • Calories = 176
  • Fat = 17g (13g are monounsaturated fat– the good kind)
  • Fiber = 3g (14% of the RDA)
  • protein = 4 g
  • vitamin E = 4. 2 mg (21% of the RDA)
  • Manganese = 0.6 g (32% of the RDA)
  • Folate = 32 mg (8% of the RDA)
  • Magnesium = 46 mg (20% of the RDA)
  • Calcium = 32 mg (3% of the RDA)
  • Iron = 1.3 mg (7% of the RDA)
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Keep in mind that many of the healthy advantages to eating hazelnuts can be cancelled out if they’re coated in unhealthy dips and seasonings. If you’re looking to eat hazelnuts for their health benefits, steer clear of chocolate-covered or salted hazelnuts and eat them as close as possible to the way they came off the tree.


Peanuts are a good source of dietary fiber, protein, and potassium which helps regulate the body’s water levels and metabolism. They are one of the highest protein nuts with a moderate calorie count. Luckily, adding peanuts to your diet is easy with a wide variety of peanut products on the market from peanut butter to peanut sauces. Though if you are snacking on peanuts, stay away of added salt and roasted nuts as they may contain excess sodium and sugar, which can easily ruin your diet.

  • Calories = 168
  • Fat = 15g (2g sat)
  • Fiber = 3g (11% of the RDA)
  • protein = 8g
  • vitamin E = 1.9 mg (10% of the RDA)
  • Manganese = 0.5 g (26% of the RDA)
  • Folate = 33.6 mg (6% of the RDA)
  • Magnesium = 49.3 mg (12% of the RDA)
  • Calcium = 17.1 mg (2% of the RDA)
  • Iron = 1.3 mg (2% of the RDA)

Raw peanuts have less total carbohydrate, but more fiber than peanut butter. For this reason, raw peanuts have a slight edge over peanut butter.


Pistachios are one of the healthiest nuts among all nuts with a good amount of protein, healthy fats, fiber, and magnesium. Not surprisingly, they are my go-to nut snacks. With many other nuts, one ounce per serving only comes to be about 20 or fewer kernels, but with pistachios, it’s about 49!

Pistachios contain the highest levels of antioxidants, along with other heart-friendly nutrients, such as potassium and magnesium. It doesn’t stop there. Pistachios also lower systolic blood pressure. People who consume them have fewer risks for metabolic syndrome, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (5).

  • Calories = 156
  • Fat = 12g (2g sat)
  • Fiber = 3g (12% of the RDA)
  • protein = 6g
  • vitamin E = 0.6 mg (3% of the RDA)
  • Manganese = 0.3 g (17% of the RDA)
  • Folate = 14.3 mg (4% of the RDA)
  • Magnesium = 33.9 mg (8% of the RDA)
  • Calcium = 30 mg (3% of the RDA
  • Iron = 1.3 mg (6% of the RDA)

Interestingly, despite their high calorie content, eating pistachios is not linked to significant weight gain. It appears that when adding pistachios to their diet, people are less hungry and naturally decrease their intake of other calories (6).


Since pecans only provide 2 g of protein per serving, it may not be very efficient loading up on pecan nuts for the sake of protein. But these holiday staple nuts provide many other reasons to have a serving here and there packing in more than 19 different vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, B, and E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, and fiber. Just one ounce or about 8 pecans will provide about 11 % of the daily recommended fiber intake (7), which is crucial since most Americans are fiber deficient.

  • Calories = 193
  • Fat = 20g (9g sat)
  • Fiber = 3g (10% of the RDA)
  • protein = 2g
  • vitamin E = 0.4 mg (2% of the RDA)
  • Manganese = 1.3 g (63% of the RDA)
  • Folate = 6.2 mg (2% of the RDA)
  • Magnesium = 33.9 mg (8% of the RDA)
  • Calcium = 0.3 mg (1% of the RDA
  • Iron = 0.7 mg (6% of the RDA)
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Because pecans have high-fat content like avocados and olive oil, they promote stable heart health through unsaturated fats, decreasing the risk of heart disease.


Walnuts are known as a heart-healthy food because of the high monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids which may help with prevention of heart disease. Omega-3s can also help prevent arthritis and depression. These are a go-to nuts when making vegan pesto. I usually combine almonds and walnuts for nutty pesto that can be spread on everything from pizza to eggplants. Also, if you are short on manganese which helps with absorption of calcium and bone metabolism, walnuts make an excellent source, offering 1g per serving, which accounts for 48% of your recommended daily intake.

  • Calories = 183
  • Fat = 18g (2g sat)
  • Fiber = 2g (8% of the RDA)
  • protein = 4g
  • vitamin E = 0.2 mg (1% of the RDA)
  • Manganese = 1.0 g (48% of the RDA)
  • Folate = 6.2 mg (2% of the RDA)
  • Magnesium = 44.2 mg (11% of the RDA)
  • Calcium = 0.3 mg (3% of the RDA)
  • Iron = 0.8 mg (5% of the RDA)

More than 99% of the walnuts in U.S. are grown in the fertile soils of California’s Central Valley. Internationally, California walnuts supply two-thirds of the world’s walnut trade (8).

Final Thoughts

Nuts, in general, are considered healthy and nutritious, containing many essential nutrients like protein, fiber, calcium, iron, and vitamin E. But within nuts, there is a great variance in how much of each nutrient each nut contains. In a vegan and vegetarian diet, a nutrient like protein is a bit hard to get. That’s why it’s so important to take advantage of sources like nuts and finding out which types offer more protein than others.

Nuts like almonds, peanuts, cashews, and pistachios are always on top of my list being moderate in calories and exceptionally high in protein – 6g per serving! That’s 3 times more than protein found in macadamia nuts or pecans.

But let’s not forget that we are also after nuts’ unsaturated fats which are actually good for us in moderation and other vitamins like vitamin E, manganese, folate, and calcium. Be sure to check each nut’s nutrition profile and make your selection wisely.

(1) Nut Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease 

(2) How much protein do you need every day?

(3) Cashew consumption reduces total and LDL cholesterol: a randomized, crossover, controlled-feeding trial.

(4) Effects of Hazelnut Consumption on Blood Lipids and Body Weight: A Systematic Review and Bayesian Meta-Analysis

(5) Pistachios: Little Nuts Loaded With Calcium and Vitamin K

(6) Pistachio nuts: composition and potential health benefits

(7) Health Benefits of Pecans

(8) About Walnuts


Andrew Ellis

InnoVision Health Media reports on health content that is supported by our editorial advisory board and content published in our group of peer reviewed medical journals.

1 Comment on The Eight Best Nuts for Your Diet

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