Nuts under the nutritional microscope

by Marie-Josée Rainville

We often hear about nuts being good for our health without really understanding all the benefits we can get from eating them more often. It’s all true: they’re tasty, eco-friendly and very nutritious. They’re rich in many essential nutrients, from fiber to minerals, plant-based protein and antioxidants. They have a positive impact on heart health, immunity, bone health and so much more. Here is a (long and super complete) guide to their nutritional benefits. 

 

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1. Your heart will thank you

Good fats

This won’t surprise you: nuts are an important source of fat. But don’t panic, because they contain mostly healthy fats. Five 30g servings of nuts (about 30 almonds) per week could reduce the risk of chronic diseases, have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, gallstones and colon cancer in women. 

Monounsaturated fats

Monounsaturated fats, also found in olive oil and canola oil, are associated with a lowered risk of heart disease. They have a positive effect on HDL (good cholesterol).

Best sources: Cashew nuts and Brazil nuts are the richest in monounsaturated fats.

Omega-3

There are 3 types of omega-3 in our diet: DHA, EPA and ALA. ALAs are transformed by the body into DHA or EPA. EPAs are known to have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health, promoting, among other things, blood vessels elasticity and reducing inflammation. For their part, DHAs play a key role in the development of the brain, nervous system and retina. 

Best sources: Walnuts are by far the best source of omega-3, followed closely by Brazil nuts. One serving of walnuts provides close to 200% of the daily omega-3 (ALA) requirements for women (170% for men).

Phytosterols

Phytosterols are plant molecules that closely resemble cholesterol. They may have a positive impact on bad cholesterol when consumed in large quantities because they inhibit intestinal cholesterol absorption. To increase its benefits, it is recommended to combine phytosterol sources with other cholesterol reduction strategies (more fibre, less saturated fat).

Best sources: Good sources of phytosterols include pecans, almonds and hazelnuts.

Potassium

Some studies suggest that low sodium intake and increased potassium intake could significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, the North American diet is often very rich in sodium and relatively low in potassium. Potassium is important for the body, because it is also involved in the digestion and the acid-base balance (pH) of the body. Additionally, it plays an essential role in muscle contraction and the nervous system. We need a lot of potassium in a day, so each small food source helps us to reach the recommended intake. Fruits, vegetables and nuts are valuable sources of potassium.

Best sources: Cashews, almonds and hazelnuts are sources of potassium - a 30g serving provides as much as a half-boiled potato or a half banana provides the same amount.

2. Allies Against Aging and Chronic Disease

Noix de GrenoblePhoto by Peppe Ragusa via Unsplash

The normal functioning of the body, as well as pollution, sunlight and tobacco exposure lead to the formation of “free radicals” in the body. These molecules damage other cells in our bodies by “oxidizing” them. They can contribute to the occurrence of certain diseases including cancer and cardiovascular diseases, and play a role in cellular aging. Fortunately, the body has a defence mechanism against free radicals: antioxydants. Naturally present in foods, these molecules protect the body by preventing the oxidation process. 

Vitamin E 

Vitamin E protects the cell membranes of the body since it is a powerful antioxidant. It also plays a role in preventing cardiovascular disease by promoting blood vessel dilation and reducing inflammation. There are two forms of vitamin E in nuts: one is used by the body and the second is a form of antioxidants.

Best sources: One 30g serving of almonds covers 100% of the daily vitamin E requirements. Hazelnuts and Brazil nuts are excellent sources of vitamin E as they cover respectively 50% and 30% of the daily requirements. Walnuts and pecans are excellent sources of “antioxidant” vitamin E.

Manganese

Like many nutrients, manganese plays many roles in the body. As well as being an antioxidant, it is involved in the formation of bones and the metabolism of carbohydrates, cholesterol and amino acids.

Best sources: Walnuts, cashews, pecans and almonds are excellent sources of manganese. A 30g serving covers about 30% of the daily requirements.

Selenium

While the human body only needs a very small amount of selenium, it is essential to the proper functioning of the body. Selenium plays both a role in immune and thyroid functions, and acts as an antioxidant by working with vitamin E to protect our body from free radicals.

Best sources: Three or four Brazil nuts cover our daily selenium requirements.

3. Friends of your digestive system

Sources of plant protein

In general terms, nuts are a source of valuable plant-based protein. It is important to remember that some essential amino acids are missing from plant proteins. Therefore, we benefit from combining more than one source of plant proteins (legumes or nuts with cereal products) in the same day. For example, you can add walnuts to a quinoa salad or spread almond butter on bread. (Learn more about plant proteins here!)

Best sources: ¼ cup of almonds provides 8g of protein—this is a good source since it represents the same amount of protein found in 1 cup of cow’s milk.

Protéines végétalesFurther reading: our guide to plant-based protein!

Fibre

Dietary fibre is part of the carbohydrate family but cannot be digested by humans. It serves to promote the health of the digestive system, and to help control cholesterol and blood sugar.

Best sources: ¼ cup of almonds provides 4.2g of fibre—the equivalent of 2 bananas!

4. Top-shape bones and teeth

Calcium

A lot is known about the crucial role of calcium in maintaining healthy bones and teeth. It is also involved in blood clotting and the functioning of body cells and kidneys. It is the most abundant mineral in the body.

Best sources: Almonds are a source of calcium. One serving of 30 almonds provides the same amount of calcium as 50g of brie cheese or  cup of milk.

Phosphorus

Phosphorus, the second most abundant mineral in the body after calcium, also plays a role in the formation of bones and teeth. In addition, it is involved in the acid-base balance of the body and participates in the synthesis of cell tissues and membranes.

Best sources: The champions in phosphorus are Brazil nuts. A ¼ cup serving provides nearly 35% of the daily phosphorus requirements. The same as ¾ cup of plain yogurt. Cashew nuts and almonds come second (28%).

5. A strong immune system

Magnesium

Magnesium is a nutrient involved in the functioning of the immune system, bone development, teeth health, protein synthesis, the functioning of enzymes and the nervous system, and energy metabolism.

Best sources: Cashew nuts, Brazil nuts and almonds are excellent sources of magnesium. One serving fulfills about  of women’s daily magnesium requirements and ¼ of men’s, equivalent to 3 commercial whole wheat bread slices.

Zinc

Zinc plays a role in supporting the immune system in addition to being involved in the making of genetic material, the wound-healing process and fetus development. It is also essential to certain hormonal reactions (insulin, thyroid and sexual hormones).

Best sources: Cashew nuts, Brazil nuts, pecans and almonds are good sources of zinc.

6. No bad blood

Iron

Iron is a mineral essential to the proper functioning of the body since it is found in each of our cells. It is involved in the transport of oxygen to the blood, the synthesis of new cells and hormones, and the nervous system. There are two types of iron found in food: heme iron (which comes from animal foods) and non-heme iron (which comes from plant foods).

Best sources: Cashew nuts and almonds are good sources of iron. Since nuts are a source of non-heme iron, combine them with a source of vitamin C to increase the absorption rate. For example, a delicious salad with spinach, red peppers and orange, sprinkled with cashew nuts.

Copper

Copper plays a role in the formation of hemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen to the blood), collagen and several enzymes, some of which contribute to the body’s defence against free radicals.

Best sources: Almonds are the champions of copper content. As an example, a 30g serving of almonds provides almost 80% of the daily requirements. Other excellent sources are cashew nuts and pecans which cover 30% of the daily requirements.

Écureuil

It is obvious, from analyzing their nutrient content, that nuts are little nutritional bombs. In addition to being delicious, they can be prepared in different ways, both in savoury and sweet dishes. They add flavours, textures and colours to our plates, and keep for a long time. Sprinkled over a salad or a soup, used as a substitute for part of the flour in a cake, they are simply delicious and should be on the menu every day. It’s simple, tasty and healthy for us! 


We believe that organic food, ultimately, is just food. Uncorrupted, untampered, unadulterated food. And we wouldn't tend to think so, but the scope of organic goes far beyond fresh foods like fruits and vegetables. Anything that grows in a soil that's laden with chemicals, that's sprayed with chemicals while it's growing, will be full of toxins. That includes dried fruit, because they were fresh once upon a time. That includes nuts too, because the trees on which they grow get sprayed during their entire growth cycle, and the toxins make it all the way to the nuts that are hidden in their shells through the roots. Contamination doesn't just happen on the outside - it's inside too. That's why we make sure all our products are 100% organic. Because if you could reduce your body's toxic burden, why wouldn't you?

Shop our organic raw nuts

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Marie-Josée Rainville
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Marie-Josée Rainville

Nutritionist, entrepreneur, passionate about cooking and travel, food is at the center of her life. Mom to two young kids, she understands the challenges parents might face in finding the right balance for their children’s diets. She has been working with teenagers and adults who have a conflictual relationship with food, as well as children with food problems, for several years. Her mission? Help children, teenagers and adults learn to eat with pleasure and appetite, without any guilt.

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