Dr. Oz isn't the only one who stashes nuts in his work bag. Olympic athletes grab fistfuls for workout fuel; the fittest actors in Hollywood eat them on set; President Obama famously munches on them during late nights in the West Wing. Nuts, Mother Nature's original can't eat-just-one snack, are having a moment.
One reason: These little bites have big nutritional bona fides. They're rich in good-for-you fat and energy-boosting protein. Plus, study after study reports that nut noshers are healthier and live longer than others. New research suggests that this may be because the more nuts people eat, the lower their levels of inflammation — the immune-system overreaction that makes your body more vulnerable to a range of chronic diseases.
"Substances in nuts such as polyunsaturated fats, fiber, vitamin E, and phenolic compounds have anti-inflammatory properties," says Ying Bao, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Which may help explain another study's findings: Just three servings a week could cut your risk of dying from heart disease by 55 percent and from cancer by 40 percent.
Star power, scientific cred, and a formidable yum factor? Folks, it's officially crunch time. Read on to learn more about nuts' dietary distinctions.
OUR FAVORITE NUTS AND WHAT THEY'RE GOOD FOR
Each variety is a superfood in its own unique way. Mix them up to reap all the benefits.
A high-protein, high-fiber combo that can help with weight control, heart health, and insulin sensitivity. Could improve the good-bacteria quotient in your gut, too.
High-calorie (1 oz, about 12 nuts, packs in 203), but rich and satisfying. Has more good-for-you monounsaturated fat than any other nut and even avocados.
Tops for carrying the plant version of heart-healthy omega 3s, known as ALAs. The nut is also linked to soothing a grumpy gut and calming chronic inflammation, as well as decreasing the risk of colon cancer.
Packed with a special type of vitamin E that helps keep your brain healthy. When researchers gave subjects pecans to snack on, they noticed an immediate plunge in bad cholesterol levels in the blood.
Second only to almonds in the high-fiber, high-protein combo. A handful of them has as much fiber as 1/2 cup of broccoli. Plus, they've got fatigue-fighting potassium.
More protein in a handful than in any other nut — about 7 grams per 1/4 cup. A great source of cholesterol-controlling phytosterol. The resveratrol in them helps protect you from heart disease.
7. Brazil Nuts
One nugget is all you need to get 100 percent of your daily requirement of selenium, a mineral that healths up your thyroid and immune system. (Stick to fewer than three a day to avoid selenium overload.) Can also act as an anti-inflammatory.
The nut champion of folate, a nutrient essential for preventing birth defects and building strong bones. These nuts also lower bad cholesterol and raise the good kind. Eat the skin for an especially powerful dose of antioxidants.
A 1-oz serving (18 nuts) delivers 69 percent of the daily recommended value of copper, which increases your ability to make red blood cells (crucial for ferrying oxygen throughout your body). Has immune-boosting zinc, as well.
NUTTY FACTS YOU SHOULD KNOW
- Most nuts weigh in between 160 and 180 calories for a handful - about the same as a nutrition bar or a low-fat container of fruit yogurt.
- The percentage of calories in almonds that your body absorbs is actually 80 percent (so subtract 20 percent from what the label says).
- Humans started gathering nuts from trees in 7000 B.C.
- Going organic is less crucial for nuts than for most other foods. We don't eat the shells, and since they're smaller than most other product, the effect of any pesticide residue is minimal.
This story originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.
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