Did you know that incorporating nuts into your diet can do wonders for your health? Just like saving a little bit each month can grow into a significant sum, adding a handful of nuts to your daily routine can lead to big health benefits.

Here is the lowdown on some of these nutritious powerhouses:

Walnuts – the best nut for heart health

A daily dose of walnuts can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure
Only walnuts contain alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), a plant-based form of Omega-3 fatty acid that boasts heart health credentials. A 25-year study of 3,300 people at the University of Minnesota in 2022 found those who ate a handful a day had lower blood pressure and were a healthier weight than those who didn’t. Walnuts also lower cholesterol by 8.5%, says a recent study in Spain.

“A handful (30g) contains 2.5g ALA – more than double the recommended daily amount (RDA) for women,” says dietitian Sian Porter.

A Texan study found that walnut-eaters have high levels of the gut bacteria associated with lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, which may also explain the link with heart health.

 

Almonds – the best nut for muscle mass


Fat: 16.7g
Saturated fat: 1.3g
Calories: 184

Almonds are a great source of calcium and protein.
“Almonds contain 20g of protein per 100g, which is comparable to meat and fish, and the most protein of any nut,” says Bridget Benelam at the British Nutrition Foundation.

“We naturally lose muscle mass as we age, but eating protein delays that, particularly if you spread intake over the day rather than eating it in one sitting. They’re also the nut with the highest vitamin E content, essential for healthy skin, eyes and immune system. A 30g serving contains 60% of RDA.”

They top the calcium charts too: a cup of almonds contains 378mg – that’s more than in a cup of milk (300mg).


Cashews – the best nut for diabetics


Fat: 14.5g
Saturated fat: 2.9g
Calories: 172

Cashews contain more iron than any other nut.

Cashews are one of the least fattening nuts, yet are still bursting with micronutrients and plant sterols. A recent study in India saw 300 people with type 2 diabetes given a cashew-enriched diet or a typical diabetes diet. Those eating cashews had lower blood pressure and higher levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol after 12 weeks; their glucose levels remained stable.

Cashews are also useful for vegetarians. “They are a rich source of zinc and contain more iron than any other nut – a mineral that helps make red blood cells to transport oxygen around the body and reduce tiredness,” explains Benelam. A 30g portion provides around 20% of the RDA of iron for men and non-menstruating women.


Pistachio – the best nut for eye health


Fat: 13.6g
Saturated fat: 1.7g
Calories: 169

Pistachios are high in protein making you feel full for longer,
Pistachios win hands down when it comes to levels of zeaxanthin and lutein, the carotenoids responsible for the nut’s green-purple hue. They help protect against cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, and from the damage caused by blue light. One serving (30g) contains approximately 1.4mg of lutein (its health benefits are associated with consuming 6mg a day).

Rich in fibre, pistachios have a low glycaemic index, and are high in protein, making you feel fuller for longer. Go for those in shells: research has shown we consume 41% less calories a sitting.


Brazil – the best nut for immunity


Fat: 20.5g
Saturated fat: 5.2g
Calories: 205

Just one brazil nut a day can help your health.

“Brazil nuts are the richest known food source of selenium, an antioxidant that boosts the immune system, supports thyroid function and promotes good skin, hair and nails,” says Bajekal. “A single nut provides your RDA of this mineral, so I eat one every morning with my vitamins.”

Brazils have heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as well as the most saturated fat of any nut, with 5.2g per 30g, so experts advise a maximum of three a day.


Hazelnut – the best nut for memory


Fat: 19.1g
Saturated fat: 1.4g
Calories: 195

In Iranian traditional medicine, hazelnuts have long been used to help treat memory impairment. Researchers in Tehran gave scientific validity to this, finding that eating hazelnut kernels for 16 days improved memory and reduced anxiety (albeit in an animal study). This could be due to their high monounsaturated fat content – hazelnuts have the second highest levels after macadamias.

Hazelnuts also contain several powerful micronutrients, with the highest concentration of anti-inflammatory manganese.

 

Next time you reach for a handful of nuts, remember that small, consistent actions can lead to big health benefits. And don’t forget, Thamesbank Credit Union is here to support you with small, consistent steps towards financial wellbeing.

Written by: Ruth Tierney