Nuts and seeds: health benefits and nutrients

According to the encyclopedia Wikipedia, a nut is a non-dehiscent, one-seeded, single achene with a lignified pericarp. A seed, on the other hand, is the most important survival organ in seed plants. Examples of nuts include almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts. Favorite seeds include pine nuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. Peanuts are actually legumes (like peas or beans), but are called nuts because they have many characteristics similar to tree nuts. Regular consumption of nuts are part of a healthy diet and can protect you against heart disease and type 2 diabetes and can help with weight management. When eaten as part of a healthy diet where total energy intake is controlled, nuts do not contribute to overweight or obesity. Seeds can contribute to your feeling of satiety thanks to their high fiber content.

  • Nutrients in nuts
  • Nutrients in seeds
  • Nuts and heart disease
  • Cholesterol
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Are all nuts healthy?
  • Fats in nuts
  • Roasted nuts
  • Roasted nuts
  • Unroasted nuts
  • Salted nuts
  • Nuts, overweight and obesity
  • Nuts, seeds and allergy
  • Recommended amount of nuts and seeds
  • Include nuts and seeds in your daily diet
  • List of edible nuts and seeds

 The walnut / Source: Lawrencekhoo, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

Nutrients in nuts

Different types of nuts contain different nutrients, but in general nuts contain the following nutrients:

  • Nuts have a low content of saturated fats
  • Nuts contain high levels of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
  • Nuts do not contain cholesterol like all plant foods.
  • Nuts contain phytochemicals, such as phytoestrogens (isoflavones) and phenolic compounds, ellagic acid and flavonoids
  • Nuts contain dietary fiber.
  • Nuts contain vegetable protein, which makes them a good alternative to animal products.
  • Nuts also contain high levels of the amino acid arginine, which helps keep blood vessels elastic
  • They contain vitamin E, vitamin B3, B6 and folic acid.
  • Nuts are full of minerals such as magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, copper, selenium, phosphorus and potassium.
  • Chestnuts are low in fat and rich in carbohydrates and fiber with a low glycemic content. They are also the only nut that contains vitamin C, that amount is slightly reduced when chestnuts are cooked.


Nutrients in seeds

Seeds are eaten in small quantities, but they are rich in nutrients. Most seeds are rich in protein, healthy fats, fiber, minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron and zinc, while being naturally low in sodium. They also contain vitamins B1, B2 and B3 and some are rich in vitamin E. In general, oilseeds contain antioxidants to prevent the fats from going rancid too quickly.Below: an artery affected by arteriosclerosis / Source: Teguh Mujiono/Shutterstock

Nuts and heart disease


LDL cholesterol is considered the “bad” cholesterol. It can contribute to the build-up of plaque in the arteries, causing them to narrow (atherosclerosis) which can lead to coronary heart disease such as angina and myocardial infarction. Increases in LDL cholesterol are mainly caused by excessive dietary intake of saturated fats.

Coronary heart disease

If you eat nuts regularly, you reduce your risk of dying from coronary heart disease. Eating nuts (and some seeds) helps lower LDL cholesterol levels and maintain healthy blood vessels, due to their high content of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, antioxidant phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals, and the vitamin folate and the amino acid arginine that helps keep blood vessels elastic.

Are all nuts healthy?

Fats in nuts

Most nuts, including almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, macadamia nuts, pine nuts and pistachios, contain mainly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats with a small proportion of saturated fats. Where fat is found, all three types of fat are present in varying proportions. Coconut and palm nuts contain high levels of saturated fats, so consumption of coconut products should be limited.

Roasted nuts

Roasting nuts, whether with oil or dry roasted, has little effect on the fat content of nuts and can even enhance their nutty flavor. This is because nuts are physically dense and cannot absorb much oil even when immersed in oil (such as when roasting, see below), unlike chips which are porous. Most nuts absorb only 2% extra fats.

Roasted nuts

Roasted nuts are nuts that have been fried in oil and these nuts contain slightly fewer vitamins and minerals than the unroasted raw variety. Nuts contain many healthy unsaturated fats and, according to the Nutrition Center, virtually no longer absorb oil. Roasted nuts therefore do not contain much more fat than raw nuts.

Unroasted nuts

Some people prefer the taste of raw natural nuts. Unroasted nuts are raw, unprocessed nuts. Unroasted nuts are also called raw nuts. Walnuts and Brazil nuts are never roasted anyway.

Salted nuts

Salted nuts should not be taken daily because of the higher sodium content, especially important if you already have high blood pressure. Save salted nuts for parties and make raw and dry-roasted nuts your daily choice.Overweight / Source: Taniadimas, Pixabay

Nuts, overweight and obesity

Overweight and obese people can benefit from the protective properties of nuts, without associated weight gain, if they are swapped for fatty snack products. A handful of nuts weighing 30 grams is a nutritious snack.Nuts contribute to weight management in several ways:

  • Satiety: Consumption of nuts increases feelings of satiety, probably due to the protein, fat and fiber content of nuts and they produce satiety hormones in the intestine.
  • Increased energy consumption: consuming nuts requires more energy to digest the nuts, so you burn more energy eating nuts
  • Excretion (excretion) of fat: not all of the fat in nuts is absorbed; up to 20% is lost through feces. The strong cell walls of nuts can withstand complete digestion.
  • Glycemic index (GI) lowering effect: the glycemic index says something about the speed at which carbohydrates from foods are converted into glucose (which has an effect on blood sugar levels). Adding nuts to carbohydrate meals reduces the rise in blood glucose after eating, creating a low GI effect, which also reduces appetite.
  • Lowers insulin levels and increases insulin sensitivity: Consumption of nuts lowers insulin levels, which may make insulin more effective and improve insulin resistance. Insulin resistance can lead to weight gain.


Nuts, seeds and allergy

All nuts, peanuts and seeds have the potential to cause acute allergic reactions, especially in young children. Acute allergic reactions can be life-threatening. Unlike many other allergies that children seem to grow out of, peanut allergies or tree nut allergies tend to continue into adulthood.Left: the drupe; right: the almond / Source: Unknown, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

Recommended amount of nuts and seeds

According to the Nutrition Center, most adults are advised to eat a handful of unsalted nuts per day. This is approximately 30 grams of nuts and is approximately equal to:

  • 30 almonds
  • 10 Brazil nuts
  • 15 cashew nuts
  • 4 chestnuts
  • 20 hazelnuts
  • 15 macadamia nuts
  • 15 pecans
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 30 pistachios
  • 10 whole walnuts or 20 half walnuts
  • a handful of mixed nuts
  • about two of each type of nut, except chestnuts

A healthy daily portion of grains is also about 30 grams. Whole nuts are not suitable for children under three years of age as they can cause choking if not chewed properly . The diet of young children from six months of age can include nut and seed butters, such as peanut butter or almond butter, or nut and seed oils.Sunflower seed with and without shell / Source: Kaldari, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

Include nuts and seeds in your daily diet

Instead of having a bag of chips, a cookie or a piece of cake as a snack, try eating a handful of raw or dry roasted nuts. You can also add nuts and seeds to your meals. This is a good way to make plant-based meals more attractive, for example in Asian-style dishes (stir-fries) or added to a salad.Vegetarians, vegans or people who avoid animal foods should include nuts. integrate seeds and legumes into their diet, as they are a good alternative to meat, fish and eggs from animals (as they contain proteins, fats, iron, zinc and vitamin B3). To boost the absorption of non-heme iron in nuts and seeds, eat them with vitamin C-rich foods and drinks such as tomato, pepper, orange and lemon juice. Vitamin C ensures that your body better absorbs non-heme iron from plant sources.Chia seeds / Source: ValeriaLu, Pixabay

List of edible nuts and seeds

Edible nuts and seeds are:

  • Acacia (plant)
  • Almond (nut)
  • Amaranth (genus)
  • Araucaria angustifolia
  • Araucaria bidwillii
  • Betel nut
  • Beech nut
  • Blue moonseed
  • Buckwheat
  • Cocoa bean
  • Cashew nut

Cashew nuts / Source:

  • Chia seeds
  • Cupuazu
  • French buckwheat
  • Millet reported
  • Hazelnut
  • Hemp seed
  • Chestnut
  • Knippa
  • Coffee bean
  • Coconut
  • Kola nut
  • King coconut
  • Flax seed
  • Poppy seeds
  • Macadamia nut

Macadamia nuts / Source: Forest & Kim Starr, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-3.0)

  • Melindjoe
  • Melon seed
  • Mexican palm fern
  • Mustard seed
  • Namnam
  • Brazil nut
  • Parasols
  • Pecan
  • Pine nut
  • Pistachio
  • Pumpkin seed
  • Quinoa (plant)
  • Sesame seed

Pecans / Source: Tseiu, Pixabay

  • Sleepball
  • Snakes
  • Sweet chestnut
  • Fig leaf gourd
  • Walnut (fruit)
  • Water cocoa
  • Sunflower seed


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