Are nuts good for you?

Are nuts good for you?

Tasty and suitable for all, for years nuts have been part of the list of foods to be consumed within a healthy and balanced diet. Indeed, in confirmation of this, the EIO (European Institute of Oncology) has included them in the list of Smart foods featured in the Smartfood project, which aims to “identify foods that store molecules able to activate longevity genes and slow down aging processes and related diseases, evaluating their effectiveness through clinical studies“.

Nuts - including walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, etc. - are often called “lipid nuts” or “oily nuts” due to their high fat (and thus high calorie) content. This is why, for a very long time, the consumption of nuts was attributed to weight gain and therefore was to be categorically avoided when following a healthy diet. Over the years, however, numerous scientific studies have revealed that not only a conscious consumption of nuts does not affect body weight negatively but that some molecules contained in them seem to have beneficial and preventive effects on cardiovascular health (endothelial functions and elasticity), on type 2 diabetes (insulin resistance and glycemic control), and on numerous risk factors causing metabolic syndrome (a multi-factorial syndrome that predisposes the individual to the onset of various diseases related to it) and other chronic illnesses.

So why does the scientific community support and promote the consumption of nuts? Why do magazines constantly write that eating nuts is good for our health?

In general, the fats found in nuts are mainly made up of unsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, in particular belonging to the Omega-6 and Omega-3 series. A review conducted by EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority, concluded that an adequate supply of unsaturated fats promotes an increase in the levels of circulating HDL cholesterol, commonly called “good cholesterol”. The intake of mono and polyunsaturated fats, and in particular the replacement of saturated fats with unsaturated fats in one’s diet, contribute to lowering and normalizing blood cholesterol levels and consequently reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Since unsaturated fats are degraded by high temperatures which causes them to lose their beneficial effects, it is advisable to consume natural and unroasted nuts.

Oily nuts are also a good source of protein. In particular, good nuts are almonds (26g/100g), pine nuts (37g/100g), and peanuts (27g/100g). The latter, although not properly part of the nut family as they are actually legumes, are often included within this category due to similar nutritional characteristics. The protein content of nuts makes them an excellent alternative to supplement vegetarian and vegan diets which are often lacking in protein. Vegetarians and vegans can therefore eat larger portions of nuts compared to those who follow an omnivorous diet. Others that should consume more nuts are athletes as they can benefit from the inclusion of nuts in their food plan, needing both energy and proteins that contribute to the growth and maintenance of muscle mass.

In addition to fats and proteins, nuts are also an excellent source of different minerals, which are important for the proper functioning of the body and for maintaining a good state of health:

  • Magnesium, for example, contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue; you can find it in pine nuts, Brazil nuts, and shelled almonds, i.e. the dark ones with an external skin layer.
  • Iron contributes to the normal formation of red blood cells and hemoglobin, and consequently to the normal transport of oxygen in the body. You can find it in pine nuts, cashews, and shelled hazelnuts.
  • Copper is found in high quantities in all oily nuts. It is involved in the pigmentation of skin and hair, and the right intake is also indispensable for the transport of iron in the body.
  • Phosphorus is found in high quantities in Brazil nuts, in almonds, and in pistachios. It is fundamental for the correct functioning of cell membranes.
  • Calcium is contained above all in shelled almonds and is involved in the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth.
  • A special mention goes to selenium, found in Brazil nuts: indeed, this particular mineral contributes to the normal function of both thyroid and immune system.

In addition to minerals, the vitamins contained in nuts also help to integrate one’s diet naturally: vitamin E, for example, protects cells thanks to its antioxidant action while B vitamins are involved in metabolism.

Most nuts are also an excellent source of fibre, in particular insoluble fibre. It has been shown that taking the right amount of fibre daily through nutrition (which for an adult corresponds to about 25g of fibre per day while for children it varies with age) is associated with several beneficial health effects including the reduction of intestinal transit time and an increase in fecal mass which is therefore more easily expelled, with subsequent slowing down of the stomach emptying times which leads to an increase in the sense of fullness. In addition to this, good fibre intake contributes to reducing total cholesterolemia and to slowing down the onset of the glycemic peak - and subsequently of the insulinemic peak - following a meal containing carbohydrates, with all related metabolic benefits.

In light of all this, it is easy to understand why nuts have become part of foods listed as “friends of our health“. The important thing is not to get carried away and not to overdo with portions because, being a high-calorie food, an excessive calorie intake over a long period of time often leads to weight gain. According to national and international guidelines, the recommended serving is 30g which can rise to 60g in individuals who follow a vegan diet, and even more for those who carry out intense and regular sport training.

We at Nuturally promote a healthy and conscious lifestyle, and our online shop features nuts online for true fans of natural dried fruit and nuts. By choosing Nuturally you are putting your health, the planet, and respect for other people right at the heart of everything.  


Lutz, L. Luna; Nuts and Body Weight – An Overview; J Nutr Health Sci 3(1): 104. Doi:10.15744/2393-9060.3.104.

Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for fats, including saturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, trans fatty acids, and cholesterol. EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition, and Allergies (NDA), EFSA Journal, 2010.–tutte-le-raccomandazioni-della-Societa-Italiana-di-Nutrizione-Umana-per-assicurare-lapporto-adeguato-di-proteine–vitamine–minera.aspx

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