Harvard Women's Health Watch

To your health: The benefits of a handful of nuts

To your health

The benefits of a handful of nuts

Back when "fat-free" was the smart choice, nuts didn't get much respect: Although tasty, they're high in fat and calories. But these days, nuts are winning kudos as a health food. Considerable research attests to several benefits — most notably, a reduced risk of heart attack. One of the first studies to show this effect tracked diet and heart disease for six years in 31,208 Seventh-Day Adventists. Results showed that women and men who ate nuts at least four times a week had 51% fewer heart attacks than those who ate nuts less often — a benefit that couldn't be explained by other factors, including good overall health habits.

Likewise, a Nurses' Health Study (NHS) investigation followed 86,016 women for 14 years and found that those who ate at least five ounces of nuts per week were 35% less likely to a suffer heart attack than those who ate less than one ounce per month. A separate NHS study found that women who regularly ate nuts were less likely to undergo gallbladder surgery than those who ate few or no nuts. Nut consumption also appears to reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes in women and may help curb the appetite.

Calorie, fiber, and fat* content of a 1-ounce serving of nuts

Nut

Number of calories

Fiber (grams)

Fat(grams)

Almonds (23 whole kernels)

164

3.3

14.4

Cashews, oil-roasted (18 kernels)

164

0.9

13.5

Hazelnuts (21 whole kernels)

178

2.7

17.2

Macadamia (10–12 kernels)

204

2.3

21.6

Peanuts, oil-roasted (28 kernels)

170

3.0

15.0

Pecans (19 halves)

196

2.7

20.4

Pine nuts (167 kernels)

191

1.0

19.4

Pistachios (49 kernels)

161

2.9

13.0

Walnuts (14 halves)

185

1.9

18.5

*The ratio of healthy fat (mono- and polyunsaturated fat) to saturated fat in the nuts included here ranges from 5:1 to 15:1.

Sources: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, and Netzer, C. The Complete Book of Food Counts, 4th ed., 1997.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »