In terms of variety, “pick whatever nut you like,” advises Fuchs. “They all appear to be providing comparable benefits.” Still, some nuts offer unique health-boosting bonuses, like strengthening bones, boosting braining health, or improving eyesight, so zero in on these eight.
Serving size: 49 nuts
160 calories, 6g protein, 8g carbs, 13g fat, 3g fiber
If snacking presents a once-you-pop-you-can’t-stop problem, pick pistachios. The tiny green nuts afford you the biggest serving size—49 kernels—and since they’re typically sold in-shell, the work that goes into peeling the nuts slows down consumption. Pistachios are also the nut with the highest levels of three eyesight-boosting antioxidants: lutein, zeazanthin, and beta-carotene.
Serving size: 23 nuts
163 calories, 6g protein, 6g carbs, 14g fat, 3.5g fiber
Almonds offer up more fiber than any other nut, which may help explain why participants in a Purdue University study who added 1.5 ounces of the nut to their daily diets reported less hunger and did not gain weight despite taking in 250 extra calories. Almonds also contain 75mg of calcium per serving—a fourth of what’s in a cup of skim milk.
Serving size: 28 nuts
166 calories, 7g protein, 5g carbs, 14g fat, 2g fiber
Since they grow underground, peanuts are technically legumes, but offer the same health and nutrition benefits as tree nuts. At 7g per serving, peanuts are the big winner when it comes to protein. They’re also of the best sources of arginine. The amino acid promotes the production of nitric oxide, which helps dilate blood vessels and may help lower blood pressure.
Serving size: 14 halves
190 calories, 4g protein, 4g carbs, 18g fat, 2g fiber
Walnuts’ claim to fame: they’re the only nuts that are a significant source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid that boosts heart and brain health. What’s more, a walnut-rich diet may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, as the nut’s high levels of antioxidants protect the brain from degeneration, according to research published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Serving size: 6 nuts
186 calories, 4g protein, 4g carbs, 19g fat, 2g fiber
Brazil nuts are best known for their selenium content—a 1-ounce serving delivers 777% of the recommended daily intake of the antioxidant. Selenium fights free radicals—particles that damage cells and cause diseases like cancer and heart disease—plays a role in thyroid function and reproduction, and may bolster the immune system, so stock up during flu season.
Serving size: 18 nuts
157 calories, 5g protein, 9g carbs, 12g fat, 1g fiber
In addition to being the nut that’s lowest in fat, cashews are also an excellent source of copper—one serving takes care of almost 100% of your daily intake of the mineral. Copper does a number of things in the body: it helps absorb iron (and make energy); manufacture red blood cells; and form collagen, a key component of bones and connective tissue.
Serving size: 21 nuts
178 calories, 4g protein, 5g carbs, 17g fat, 3g fiber
Hazelnuts are big on folate—a lack of the B-vitamin, found primarily in leafy green vegetables, may cause mental health issues, like depression. Hazelnuts also have a higher concentration of proanthocyanidins (PACs) than any other nut. PACs are antioxidant plant compounds that may lower blood pressure, keep blood vessels and arteries healthy, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Serving size: 19 halves
196 calories, 3g protein, 4g carbs, 20g fat, 3g fiber
Think outside the pie. Pecans are the nuts with the highest concentration of antioxidants, especially vitamin E, according to research published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. Joined by foods like blueberries and beans, food potent in antioxidants protect against cell damage and decrease the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s.