SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Nuts and seeds are good sources of protein, healthy fats, fibres, vitamins, and minerals.
- Nuts and seeds regulate body weight as their fats are not fully absorbed, they regulate food intake, and help burn energy.
- Nuts and seeds contain unsaturated fats and other nutrients that provide protective effects against heart disease.
- The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend a nut intake of 30 grams on most days of the week as part of a healthy diet for adults.
Types of nuts and seeds
Although there has been limited research on seeds. they are thought to have similar health benefits due to their nutrient content.
Types of nuts
A nut is a simple dry fruit consisting of one or two edible kernels inside a hard shell. Nuts include:
- Brazil nuts
- cashew nuts
- pine nuts
- peanuts are legumes, they are classified as nuts due to their similar characteristics to other tree nuts.
Types of seeds
The nutrient profiles of seeds are also very similar to those of nuts. Common seeds include:
- pumpkin seeds
- flax seeds
- sesame seeds
- poppy seeds
- sunflower seeds
- psyllium seeds
- chia seeds.
Benefits of nuts
Nuts have about 29 kJ of energy per gram, and are:
- – monounsaturated fats (most nut types) and polyunsaturated fats (mainly walnuts).
- Low in saturated fats.
- Good – a good alternative to animal protein.
- Some nuts are also high in amino acid arginine, which keeps healthy.
- Free of
- High in .
- Rich in phytochemicals that act as .
- Rich in vitamins and minerals – vitamins include – E, B6, niacin and ) and minerals include – magnesium, zinc, , , copper, selenium, phosphorus, and potassium.
Benefits of seeds
Like nuts, most seeds are rich in:
- protein, healthy fats, and fibre
- minerals (such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, plant iron and zinc),
- and vitamin E.
Oily seeds also contain antioxidants that stop the fats from going rancid too quickly.
Due to the unique nutrient profiles of nuts and seeds, they are known to provide several health benefits, such as:
Nuts, seeds and weight management
Lower fat in the abdominal region means lower risk for chronic diseases (such as heart disease and diabetes). Therefore, nuts should be part of a healthy diet.
Nuts help with:
- Fat absorption – fats in nuts are not fully digested and absorbed by the body. When less fats are absorbed it means that less energy from nuts is absorbed too.
- Hunger and fullness – nuts help to suppress our hunger. As a result, food intake is reduced. This effect is due to the protein, fat, and fibre content of nuts.
- – research suggests that nuts can increase the amount of energy we burn. Energy we burn following a nut-enriched meal comes from fat sources, meaning that we burn more and store less fat.
The effect of seeds on body weight has not been researched extensively but is likely to be similar to nuts as they are also high in protein, healthy fat and fibre.
Nuts and heart disease risk
Including nuts as part of your diet has been linked with a lower risk of heart disease.
Although high in fats, nuts are good sources of healthy fats (such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), and are low in (unhealthy) saturated fats.
LDL cholesterol can add to the build-up of plaque (fatty deposits) in your arteries, which can increase your risk of coronary heart disease.
Nuts also help to maintain healthy blood vessels and blood pressure (through their arginine content), and reduce inflammation in the body as they are high in antioxidants.
Recommended daily serving of nuts
One serving quals approximately 30 grams – or 1/3 of a cup (or one handful).
Since all nuts have a similar nutrient content, a wide variety of nuts can be included as part of a healthy diet. This equal to about:
- 30 almonds
- 10 Brazil nuts
- 15 cashews
- 20 hazelnuts
- 15 macadamias
- 15 pecans
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 30 pistachios
- 10 whole walnuts or 20 walnut halves
- a small handful of peanuts or mixed nuts.
How to include nuts and seeds in your diet
Different types of nuts have slight differences in their vitamin and mineral content, so eating a variety of nuts will increase your levels of various nutrients. Tips on how to make nuts and seeds a part of your diet include:
- Instead of snacking on biscuit or piece of cake as a snack, have a handful of raw or dry roasted nuts.
- Combine nuts and seeds with low-energy dense foods (such as vegetables). This is a good way to enhance vegetable-based meals – such as in Asian-style dishes or added to a salad.
- , nuts and seeds are a good protein substitute for meats, fish and eggs. They also contain fat, iron, zinc and niacin. You may need more than 30 grams of nuts and seeds a day to ensure adequate protein.
- Eat them with vitamin C rich foods and add them to drinks (such as tomato, capsicum, orange and citrus juices) to boost your iron absorption.
- There is no need to soak or remove the skin of nuts (or ‘activate’ them) unless you prefer the flavour and texture of soaked nuts. In fact, the skin of nuts is high in phytochemicals that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Roasting nuts (either dry or in oil) enhances their flavour but has little impact on their fat content. This is because nuts are physically dense and cannot absorb much oil, even if they are submerged in it. Most nuts only absorb 2% of extra fats.
- Salted nuts are not recommended due to their higher content – especially if you have . Save salted nuts for parties and make raw and unsalted roasted nuts your everyday choice.
Be mindful of the risks when eating nuts.
Nuts can be a choking hazard
Whole nuts are not suitable for children under 3 years because they may cause choking if they are not chewed well. However, nut and seed spreads or paste (such as peanut or almond butter, or nut and seed oils) can be included in young children’s diets from 6 months.
Nuts can trigger allergic reactions
Unlike many other allergies where children seem to ‘grow out of it’, peanut allergies tend to persist into adulthood.
There is no cure for allergies, so if you or your child have a nut or seed allergy, avoid nuts, seeds and foods containing them until you have seen a doctor who specialises in food allergies (an allergist). They will conduct medically supervised food tests to find out which nuts or seeds you may be allergic to.
Nuts and seeds should be introduced to infants in the form of butters or pastes, to prevent choking. Do not give whole nuts to your child until they are 3 years.
Read food labels for traces of nuts and seeds
Beware of products that ‘may contain traces of nuts and/or seeds’. ‘Cross-contamination’ can occur during manufacturing when products without nuts and seeds are made in the same facility or on the same equipment as those containing nuts and seeds.
Where to get help
- , 2013, National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Government.
- Tan SY, Dhillon J, Mattes RD, 2014, , The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 100, no. 1, 412S–422S.
- Coates A, Hill AM, Tan SY, 2018 , Current Atherosclerosis Reports, vol. 20, no. 10, p. 48.
- Barbour JA, Howe PR, Buckley JD, Bryan J and Coates AM, 2014 , Nutrition Research Reviews, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 131–158.
- Hernández-Alonso P, Camacho-Barcia L, Bulló M and Salas-Salvadó J, 2017 , Nutrients, vol. 9, no. 7, p. 673.
- Shivani K, 2018, , Thesis, Master of Dietetics, University of Otago, New Zealand.
- , 2012, National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Australian Government.
- , 2017, Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy.
- , 2019, CHOICE, Australia.