Go Nuts: Health Benefits of 10 Nuts and Seeds

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
  • It’s true: Nuts and seeds are high in calories and fat. But when eaten in moderate amounts, they provide a big health boost. A 30-year diet study reported that people who ate nuts were less likely to die of heart disease, cancer, and respiratory diseases, and the more nuts in your diet, the lower your risk. Why? Because nuts and seeds contain mono- and polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids that reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and other illnesses. Add just 1 to 1.5 ounces of these nuts and seeds to your daily diet to reap the benefits.

  • 1
    Pecan nuts on rustic wood table

    Though pecans have some of the highest amounts of fat (21 grams) and calories (199) per ounce, this nut is also high in omega-3 fatty acids (278 g) and flavonoids, which are great for heart health. Pecans provide a big boost of manganese, which helps regulate blood sugar, builds healthy bones, and assists in forming collagen to keep skin firm and elastic. The best part? Pecans are naturally sweet, making them a great addition to dessert or by the handful to curb sugar cravings.

  • 2
    hands holding large scoop of walnuts

    Walnut benefits are numerous. This powerful and popular nut is a winner when it comes to providing omega-3 fatty acids with 2,565 mg per one ounce serving. Studies have shown that eating walnuts can lower total cholesterol levels and “bad” LDL cholesterol while boosting "good" HDL cholesterol. They may also help improve blood pressure and circulatory blood flow. Though walnuts have 18 g of fat and 185 calories per ounce, their anti-inflammatory nutrients are known to help with weight loss.

  • 3
    Flax seeds in heart shape

    In the categories of seeds with high nutrition value, flaxseeds are a smart pick that deliver 6,388 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per ounce. In addition to being great for cardiovascular health, they also provide fiber, which improves digestive health and relieves constipation. Experts recommend eating ground flaxseed instead of whole flaxseed. Ground flaxseed is more digestible and you’ll absorb more nutrients. You can buy ground flaxseed or grind your own whole flaxseed at home. Like with any fiber, eat flaxseed with plenty of water or other fluids.

  • 4
    Chia Seeds
    spoon of chia seeds on burlap sack

    Chia seeds take second place for heart health with 4,915 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per ounce. They’re also a little lower in calories at 137 per ounce. Chia seeds contain soluble fiber and can absorb a lot of water, which creates a gel-like texture that’s similar to a pudding. Eating chia seeds with water can make you feel more full and slow the absorption of food, so you don’t get hungry as quickly. It’s easy to add a tablespoon or two of chia seeds to a smoothie, salad or baked goods.

  • 5
    close up of almonds

    You can’t have a list of healthy nuts without including almonds. They’re a healthy mainstay that are easy for snacking and baking. Almonds are hard workers and come in a variety of forms from nut butters to milks to flours. They’re packed with fiber, protein, vitamin E, manganese and magnesium, making them a go-to nut for all-around health benefits. While almonds are good for general cardiovascular health, they also contain an amino acid called arginine that may help with erectile dysfunction by relaxing blood vessels and improving circulation.

  • 6
    Close-up of pile of shelled pistachios

    These unusual green nuts are lower in fat at 13 grams per ounce and only have 160 calories per ounce. They’re high in B6 vitamins and are the only nut that contains a substantial amount of carotenoids that benefit eye health. One of the other wins for pistachios is that their unique half-cracked shells can take longer to remove, which may keep you from eating too many. Pistachios are delicious by the handful, but are also a great topping for salads or yogurt.

  • 7
    bowl of cashews

    Much like the pistachio, cashews offer 163 calories and 13 g of fat per ounce. If you’re iron deficient, cashews are your number one nut with 1.9 g of iron per ounce. They can also benefit bone and joint health by adding extra magnesium and copper to your diet. Because cashews have a smooth, creamy texture, they’re great as a dairy replacement in forms like cashew milk or cashew cheese.

  • 8
    Pumpkin Seeds
    handful of pumpkin seeds

    You don’t have to wait until Halloween to enjoy pumpkin seeds. These low-carb seeds, also known as pepitas, provide health benefits year-round and are known for helping lower your LDL cholesterol. Some studies have shown eating pumpkin seeds may benefit people with type 2 diabetes by helping regulate insulin. A handful of toasted pumpkin seeds is an easy addition for salads, stir-fried veggies, tacos, and even desserts.

  • 9
    Sunflower Seeds
    Sunflower seed with a wooden spoon

    Whether you prefer them with or without the shell, sunflower seeds are packed with good fats and fiber. They also contain vitamin E, which supports prenatal health and nourishes your skin. Sunflower seeds have high concentrations of phytosterols, which can lower cholesterol and boost cardiovascular health. These seeds are small and easy to eat by the handful, so watch your portion control.

  • 10
    Sesame Seeds
    sesame seeds pouring from wooden scoop

    These tasty little seeds are usually seen on hamburger buns and bagels, but it’s simple to add them to a lvariety of dishes. They have a great nutty flavor, especially when toasted. Sesame seeds are known for being high in selenium, which may help decrease chronic disease risk. They’re also a good source of copper, which reduces inflammation and can help relieve arthritis pain. If you want to add sesame seeds to your diet, try tossing them in salads and stir fries or eating hummus made with a sesame seed butter called tahini.

Was this helpful?
  1. Why nutritionists are crazy about nuts. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/nutrition/why-nutritionists-are-crazy-about-nuts
  2. Health Benefits of Nut Consumption. US National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257681/
  3. Quick-start guide to nuts and seeds. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/quick-start-guide-to-nuts-and-seeds
  4. What Are the Healthiest Seeds to Eat? Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-should-you-eat-seeds/
  5. 10 Must-Have Healthy Nuts and Seeds to Snack On!. One Green Planet. https://www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/10-must-healthy-nuts-seeds-snack/
  6. Nuts Are Good for Us. So Why Aren’t We Eating More of Them?. AARP. https://blog.aarp.org/bulletin-today/nuts-are-good-for-us-so-why-arent-we-eating-more-of-them

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 17
View All Food, Nutrition and Diet Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.