Crazy about nuts – What is the healthiest nut? Raw nuts VS roasted nuts VS activated nuts
Nuts. Is there really any better grab-and-go snack? Full of healthy fats, proteins, fiber, and a multitude of different vitamins and minerals, nuts are a nutrient-rich and energy dense little bite-size package that can keep that hunger at bay for just a little bit longer than lots of other snacks. They also satisfy a whole range of diets and lifestyle food choices – gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian; just be careful of course for those out there who have a nut allergy – as they can be fateful.
I’ll always remember the look on my friends face when I broke to her the news that the peanuts she loved to consume in multiple forms (satay sauce, MnMs, and the glorious, comforting spread of peanut butter on rice crackers or gluten free toast) were actually not nuts, but that they were from the legume family, a family of foods which she was also meant to avoid due to allergies. “But I eat peanuts pretty much every day”, she declared. “I know” I replied, “but they’re one of those weird foods like how a tomato is actually a fruit. Peanuts are not actually nuts, they come from the legume family and actually grow underground.” She was 100% heartbroken.
So what is a nut?
There are basically two definitions when it comes to nuts – a botanical definition and a culinary one. If we think about the botanical definition, many of the nuts that we know of and love are not actually nuts at all, as in the world of botany a nut is technically the fruit of the plant which is made up of a hard shell which does not open up to release the seed that it holds inside. Some common nuts which fall into this technical not-really a nut botanical category include peanuts, almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans, and pistachios.
From a culinary definition perspective however, when we talk about nuts we’re more generally referring to the seed of a plant which is any oily kernel found inside a shell. This is where we do count peanuts as nuts, along with all those other good ones.
Cracking open a nut – the nutritional content of different nuts
High in calories, all nuts in general have a high oil content, which means that pack a great punch when you’re looking for a high energy snack source. Containing a high quota of essential unsaturated and monounsaturated fats including essential amino acids, they also play host to a wide array of vitamins and minerals including linoleic and linolenic acid which are the essential omega-3 fatty acids required for normal human growth and development.
Whenever snacking on nuts, remember that they’re both a nutrient and calorie dense snack option so make sure you’re getting your serving size right. Try and think about a handful, which is the equivalent to about ¼ cup.
|Nut||No. of nuts||Calories (kcal)||Protein (g)||Total Fat (g)||Saturated Fat (g)||Mono-
unsaturated Fat (g)
|Poly-unsaturated Fat (g)||Carbs (g)||Fiber (g)||Best for….|
|Almonds||23||160||6||14||1||9||3.5||6||4||Calcium, vitamin E|
|Cashews||18||160||4||13||3||8||2||9||1||Iron (non haem plant based), zinc|
|Hazelnuts||21||180||4||17||1.5||13||2||5||3||Folate, vitamin E, potassium|
|Pecans||19 (halves)||200||3||20||2||12||6||4||3||Vitamin B3, oleic acid|
|Walnuts||14 (halves)||190||4||18||1.5||2.5||13||4||2||Plant omega 3’s, antioxidants|
What is the best nut to eat? Raw nuts VS roasted nuts VS activated nuts
So with all these nutrients packed tightly into such a small package, just how should we be eating nuts to get the best health benefits from them?
Raw nuts have been given a bad rap over time, with claims that they have the potential danger of carrying bacteria and other nasties. I myself have never been sick as a result of eating raw nuts, but of course, this is up to you. However, as the heating process can lead to a decrease in antioxidant levels and the loss of nutrients, especially the B-group vitamins and vitamin E, the higher the temperature and the longer the time that nuts have been exposed to the higher temperatures, the more of the nutrients that will be lost.
Before I actually started reading up on nuts one day, I was surprised to find out that the “roasted” nuts I had been buying weren’t actually roasted at all – instead, they had been fried in a large vat of oil. In my mind I have always imagined them going into a large oven of some description – that’s what “roasted” means to me. Now I know that there are two main kinds of roasting for nuts – dry roasting and oil roasting. With dry roasting, heat is applied to the nuts but without adding any water or oil – think of dry frying nuts in a frying pan without any oil, that’s dry roasting.
For oil roasted nuts, there are two main ways in which they’re roasted – batch oil roasting or continuous roasting. With batch oil roasting think of deep frying French fries – the nuts are placed into a basket which is dropped into hot oil. For the continuous roasting method, nuts travel through the roasters continuously via a conveyor-type system.
Nutritionally, oil roasting nuts can add extra calories and fats to the final end nut product, however probably not as much as you think; as nuts are already high in fats, they only actually absorb approximately 2-5%. Just keep in mind that many roasted nuts will be sold salted, so watch your sodium intake.
Most of you by now have probably heard of “activating” your nuts and seeds before you consume them, with many a health blog written regarding the added benefit of processing nuts and seeds in this way before eating them.
The process of activating nuts is where you soak them in water and salt for anywhere between 7 and 12 hours before dehydrating them at a low temperature (about 150F) for 12-24 hours. By putting them through this process, you’re stimulating the early germination of the nut and kick starting the sprouting process, which according to many, increase the nutritional content. It is also meant to make it easier for our digestive tracts to break down as it reduces the contained phytates, which can inhibit the absorption of some minerals including iron, calcium, and zinc.
Healthy nut recipes
I’ve handpicked out some great healthy nut recipes that will help you make the most of these tiny, energy packed power-houses:
- Almonds – Rich in calcium, almonds are a good choice of nut for those living a vegan or dairy-free lifestyle. They’re also high in vitamin E which means great stuff for your skin. Try my yummy Cherry Vanilla Granola Recipe that makes use of flaked almonds to give that crispy, granola crunch.
- Cashews – Packed full of protein, cashews also play host to a high amount of iron and zinc making them great for vegetarians and vegans. Try this Cashew and Autumn Vegetable Biryani recipe which is both gluten free and vegan.
- Brazil Nuts – The best nut out there for your daily dose of selenium, Brazil nuts work wonders for your skin, hair, and nails. About three Brazil nuts are all you need to get your daily dose, so make sure you’re not overdoing it. For a quick and easy snack option to throw in your handbag, why not try these Chili and Garlic Brazil Nuts
- Hazelnuts – High in folate, hazelnuts are great for women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant. This recipe for these Chocolate and Hazelnut Bars are both gluten free and paleo and make use of the winning combination of chocolate and hazelnuts.
- Pecans – A great source of vitamin B3, eating pecans can help to fight fatigue as this is the vitamin that helps our body to absorb the energy within our food. They’re also high in oleic acid, which are the same good fats as those found in both avocado and olives. Try this Apple, Pecan, and Argula Salad for a vegetable side dish that’s just a little bit fancier than the standard garden salad.
- Walnuts – Often dubbed the “brain nut”, walnuts are super rich in omega-3, making them a great option for those that aren’t getting their intake of oily fish. Full of mono-unsaturated, heart-friendly fats, studies have also shown that they help to lower the bad form of cholesterol. Check out my recipe for Harvest Oat Muffins, which you can easily make gluten-free by making sure your baking powder is gluten-free and by substituting with a gluten-free flour.
robin rueOctober 23, 2017
This is good to know. I am not big on nuts, but my husband loves to snack on peanuts and almonds.
Jessica JoachimOctober 23, 2017
I love nuts but I have never really thought much about the health benefits of them. I love cashews especially, and pistachios! Luckily my kids love them too
Leslie MorrisonOctober 23, 2017
I LOVE pistachios!
Melissa ChapmanOctober 23, 2017
That was a great post and a good reference about a topic we all are interested in these health conscious times. I never knew cashews were a source of iron which we need.
KatrinaOctober 23, 2017
Thanks for adding that chart! It took me a while to warm up to almonds but they’re probably the ones
I eat the most now! Gotta get that protein!
CassieOctober 23, 2017
Great post – I must admit to not knowing too much about each individual nut so it posed an interesting question to learn which is the healthiest nut!
JovanhannaOctober 23, 2017
This was interesting. Especially how roasted nuts may actually be fried! Wow, I love different types of nuts. This was a good read.
Gladys ParkerOctober 23, 2017
I’m very glad to hear that my nuts, or not nuts are still full of vitamins although I just became disillusioned at how healthy my big snacking habit could be. I munch a cup at a time easy as I give up many other things for their “fat” content.
Karen MorseOctober 23, 2017
I did not know this much about nuts, so it’s really awesome to be able to learn about them more. I think it’s great that there are some that you can eat raw while you would have to roast others. Nuts are awesome in general! They have a lot of benefits!
Beth DavidsonOctober 23, 2017
I have been loving nuts in my salad lately. It would be good to get more benefits of them, so thanks for the information!
Heather JohnsonOctober 23, 2017
I love nuts of most kinds. My favorites are pecans and pistachios. I love a good pecan!
Terri SteffesOctober 23, 2017
I love nuts of all kinds. I remember at Christmas my parents would splurge on a big tin of mixed nuts. We all avoided the brazilian nut as it was too big!
Sapphire KharyzmaOctober 23, 2017
I love raw cashews. I also love honey roasted cashews or peanuts! Those are my faves!
Joanna @ Everyday Made FreshOctober 23, 2017
Pecans are my favorite nut to snack on. I can eat them cooked in a pie 😉 I also like to much on the non traditional nut, peanuts!
AnnMarie JohnOctober 23, 2017
I prefer roasted nuts but it’s good to know more about nuts and what they can do for our health. I love this guide, it’s really detailed.
Helen ChikOctober 24, 2017
Mmm I love anything with nuts and am totally guilty of doing the most unhealthiest thing of all and scooping peanut butter out of the jar and just devouring it haha!!
My favourite would have to be almonds and pistachios though!
KiwiOctober 24, 2017
I am literally becoming a health nut. LITERALLY. I love this list I pinned this for later but hazelnut is becoming my favorite.
Kim SixOctober 24, 2017
I learned so much from this article. I will say, my favorite nuts in the whole world are pecans.. i could eat them by the handful!
Ana De- JesusOctober 24, 2017
I love snacking on peanuts and Brazil Nuts but it was really useful to learn about the nutritional benefits of nuts like almonds and cashews. As I eat a lot of Indian food they use cashews and they are delicious x
Ashley GrantOctober 24, 2017
This post is so nutty. LOL. I love so many different kinds, but of course all my faves are the least healthy. haha. Always happens that way!
Leslie MorrisonOctober 24, 2017
I love a good pun!!
ashleyOctober 24, 2017
nuts are so good for you! they have a lot of fiber and nutrients. I love the brazil nut 🙂
Reesa LewandowskiOctober 24, 2017
I have never heard of activated nuts before. how interesting! We love nuts and I will have to refer to your list!
Hey SharonooxOctober 24, 2017
I like eating nuts for snacks. They taste really good and theyre healthy. I think any type of nuts are good for the body.
Suzanne SpiegoskiOctober 24, 2017
I really love pistachios and almonds but am not a fan of cashews! But great list!
TaraOctober 24, 2017
So helpful! What a great article. This is nice info to have all in one place. Thanks!
Hope ClarkOctober 24, 2017
I love nuts so much, macadamia has to be my favourite by far though!
WynneOctober 24, 2017
I have always thought no matter what the nuts are, you only have 5 a day, but I learned so much after reading this post. Thank you so much!
Krystel | Disney on a BudgetOctober 24, 2017
Nuts have good natural fats and oils. My mom loves them
Sondra BarkerOctober 24, 2017
I’ve never heard of activated nuts before, but I’m intrigued to try it! I love eating nuts as snacks
Alison | So Chic LifeOctober 24, 2017
Very informative! I love pretty much all nuts except for peanuts for some weird reason. Cashews are great for making dairy-free cream sauces.
NicoleOctober 25, 2017
We love nuts in this house!! My son is hooked on almond butter that is made with just almonds. I’m a label reading nut (no pun intended)
Angela Ricardo BetheaOctober 25, 2017
I’ve eaten different nuts before but didn’t put much in mind on their health benefits. This was quite an informative post, I learned a great deal about nuts now.
Kelly ReciOctober 25, 2017
I love eating nuts. This information adds knowledge to my mind. I don’t need to search anymore.
CarolynOctober 25, 2017
I forget all the time that peanuts are actually a legume. My favorite is cashew nuts. They have the perfect amount of crunch for me.
JeanineOctober 25, 2017
I’ve had Brazil nuts before around the holidays. I’ve snacked on pecans and walnuts. Almonds are good too. Good to add to desserts or other toppings on food.
Nadine CathleenOctober 25, 2017
That’s such a cool post. I love eating nuts but I never really compared their health benefits like that. Will continue with mixing my nuts 🙂
Angela Cardamone @marathonsandmotivation.comOctober 25, 2017
This is a great post! I absolutely love nuts, so reading this was very helpful to figure out which ones are best!!
Woodrow LightleOctober 25, 2017
Hello! I just would like to give a huge thumbs up for the great info you have here on this post. I will be coming back to your blog for more soon.
Leslie MorrisonOctober 26, 2017
I’m so glad you are enjoying my recipes and blog. 🙂
Our Family WorldOctober 25, 2017
We love snacking on nuts. Me and my husband always has a jar of mixed nuts in our office desks at home. Nuts are a healthy source of fiber, vitamins and omega 3. My favorites are walnuts, almonds and cashew.
HeatherOctober 25, 2017
This is great information! Our entire family really likes nuts so I usually try to keep a well stocked pantry. Almonds are my daughters favorites.
Blythe AlpernOctober 25, 2017
I use raw cashews a lot in my recipes. I soak them overnight to help make them easier to digest. I just love the flavor it can create from those delicious little nuts.
Julie SylOctober 25, 2017
This is a very informative post. I really love nuts. Especially the almond and cashew. Nuts have a lot of nutrients.
Chelsea PadgettOctober 26, 2017
We are always adding nuts to snacks and salads! Love them!
steve waltersOctober 26, 2017
Oh, this is perfect. I’m printing this off for future reference. I have always wondered what are the best nuts to be snacking on, which ones have the most protein/calories. This is great!
Ruthie RidleyOctober 26, 2017
I love raw nuts!! Such an informative post!!
Ruthie RidleyOctober 26, 2017
I love Raw nuts!! Thanks for this break down!!
Kaity | With Kids and CoffeeOctober 26, 2017
Almonds are pretty much my go-to….although tbh I prefer them roasted and coated in sugary goodness, especially this time of year. I’ll pretend that these help benefits hold up in that format. 😉
Shannon GurneeOctober 27, 2017
I love snacking on nuts during the day – especially almonds and pistachios. I didn’t know that roasted nuts weren’t actually roasted!
ChelseaOctober 27, 2017
Nuts make such a good and healthy snack to hold you over until the next meal!
RainNovember 3, 2017
I love them all but, cashews are my favorite. I know Almonds are healthiest but, I can’t resist my cashews!
Sylvester CinnamondMay 26, 2018
I really can’t believe how great this site is. Keep up the good work. I’m going to tell all my friends about this place.
Leslie MorrisonMay 31, 2018
Thanks so much for your kind words 🙂 I’m glad you enjoy the site!
Jules ShepardJanuary 5, 2019
So I learned some new things today! We are “crazy about nuts” at our house and this was eye opening! Well done!