Which nuts are the healthiest to eat?

Which nuts are the healthiest to eat?

Nuts are a staple for most backpackers because they keep well, have a lot of calories per ounce, and offer lots of nutrition that we need to keep us moving.  All nuts offer good fat and protein but some nuts offer bonus nutrients that can lower your cholesterol, boost metabolism, and help prevent heart disease and diabetes.  Many studies have shown that people who eat nuts live longer than those who don’t.  Studies have also shown that despite nuts being high in calories and fat, they have little effect on a person’s weight.  So, which nuts are the healthiest to eat?




One serving (1 oz or a small handful) contains:

  • Calories:  185
  • Fat:  18g
  • Carbs:  4g
  • Protein:  4.3g
  • Fiber:  2g
  • Vitamin E:  1% of the RDI
  • Magnesium:  11% of the RDI


I cannot say enough good things about walnuts.  They are one of the oldest know tree foods and date back around 10,000 years.  Be sure to consume the walnut in its whole form, including the skin because the skin contains phenolic acids, tannins, and flavonoids.

Walnuts not only taste great but they are an excellent source of ALA, which is a type of omega-3 fatty acid, and heart healthy monounsaturated fats.  ALA has been linked with prevention of cardivascular disease and diabetes and also improved bone health.

Studies have shown walnuts to decrease ” bad” or LDL cholesterol and increase the “good” or HDL cholesterol.  Research has also shown walnuts to be highly anti inflammatory and an antioxidant rich food.  Anti inflammatory and antioxidant phytonutrients help reduce the risk of certain cancers and diseases.




 One serving (1 oz or a small handful) contains:

  • Calories:  163
  • Fat:  14g
  • Carbs:  6g
  • Protein:  6g
  • Fiber:  3.5g
  • Vitamin E:  37% of the RDI
  • Magnesium:  19% of the RDI


Almonds are actually categorized as drupes, not nuts and are part of the peach family.  Most of the world’s almonds come from California but in 2007 it became mandatory for California to pasteurize their almonds.  The pasteurization process destroys beneficial nutrients and sort of leaves your food “dead”.  This is why I only buy unpasteurized almonds.  Check with your local health food store.

Like walnuts, almonds have been shown to increase the good cholesterol, HDL which can help protect you from heart disease.  They also may help in weight loss and lower blood pressure in people who are overweight.

Almonds are a great way to get your Vitamin E, magnesium, folate, and calcium.  I love almonds can be used so many different ways and enjoy them as almond milk, butter, and flour.

==>  Click here to read about the best nut butters <==


Macadamia Nuts

macadamia nuts

One serving (1 oz or a small handful) contains:

  • Calories:  204
  • Fat:  21g
  • Carbs:  4g
  • Protein:  2.2g
  • Fiber:  2.4g
  • Vitamin E:  1% of the RDI
  • Magnesium:  9% of the RDI


Macadamia nuts are native to Australia but South Africa is the world’s leading producer.  Only three of the many species of macadamia are edible and the others produce poisonous or inedible seeds.

Macadamias are one of my favorite nuts to take backpacking.  They offer so many calories per ounce and its one of the few nuts that I actually crave while hiking.  If you can find some with sea salt that’s even better.

Macadamia nuts are the nut highest in monounsaturated fat and this makes them very good for your heart.  One study showed a reduction in biomarkers for oxidative stress and inflammation in people who ate a diet rich in macadamias, which means the nut can possibly help prevent heart disease.

If heart disease runs in your family or you are worried about it, be sure to incorporate macadamia nuts into your everyday eating habits.




One serving (1 oz or a small handful) contains:

  • Calories:  178
  • Fat:  17g
  • Carbs:  4.7g
  • Protein:  4.2g
  • Fiber:  2.7g
  • Vitamin E:  37% of the RDI
  • Magnesium:  20% of the RDI


There have been discoveries dating the hazelnut back to the Mesolithic period.  Hazelnuts are considered filbert and cobnuts, depending on species.

Like the other nuts, they are high in the heart healthy fats and are believed to reduce the risk of heart disease and improve cholesterol levels.

One thing that I really like about hazelnuts, besides the taste is that they are high in Vitamin E.  Vitamin E has antioxidant properties that help in the healing process of the skin.  This is important for me because I am fair skinned and skin cancer runs in my family.  Its also known to reduce this risk of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease.  Vitamin E can also help improve immunity levels.



One serving (1 oz or a small handful) contains:cashew nut

  • Calories:  157
  • Fat:  12g
  • Carbs:  9g
  • Protein:  5g
  • Fiber:  1g
  • Vitamin E:  1% of the RDI
  • Magnesium:  20% of the RDI


Cashews are surprisingly in the same family as poison ivy and the cashew shell actually contains a toxin similar to urushiol which is the toxin found in poison ivy.  This toxin is destroyed during the roasting process.  The raw cashews found at the store are not actually raw, but have been lightly steamed.  True raw cashews are poisonous for people.

Cashews contain lots of essential minerals such as phosphorous, manganese, cooper, and magnesium.  They also have phytates which have anti inflammatory properties.

One study revealed that a compound in cashews called anacardic acid could be beneficial for diabetics because it improves how cells take in glucose.

Cashews are great for baking and also can be blended to make vegan cheese.  Cashew milk is creamier than almond milk and you can easily make your own at home with a blender and a nut milk bag.


What are some of your favorite nuts?  Do you take trail mix hiking and what are some of your favorite recipes?  

=>  Click here for 15 Trail Mix Recipes  <==

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4 thoughts on “Which nuts are the healthiest to eat?”

  • This was really informative! I love cashew nuts and was quite surprised to read that they have the least calories. You’ve made me want to start snacking on them again haha.

    I think my personal favourite actually has to be pistachios though! They are seriously delicious. Do you know if these are also a good snacking option as well?

    • Hi Joshua,

      You should go for it and snack away on those cashews!  Just make sure you don’t get the ones with added sugar.  

      Pistachios have lots of health benefits too and are a lower calorie nut as well.  While backpacking, I’m usually looking for the higher calorie nuts so I didn’t include these in the article.  Pistachios are high in antioxidants, B6, and phosphorus.

  • Katie,

    You have listed by top of all time favorite nuts here so thank you!!!

    Absolutely love each and every one of them and I could write an essay on each but I wanted to just share an observation I thought was pretty cool:

    Walnuts look like the human brain and it was found they indeed GREATLY benefit the brain by boosting its memory and recall; helping patients with memory loss.

    Almonds look like the eye in it’s shape and they are loaded with essential vitamins for the eye.

    Goodness is right in front of our eyes, sometimes we just don’t make the connection.

    I also love Brazil nuts – do you like them and have yo tried them?

    • Love your observations!  

      Its so easy to incorporate nuts into your diet and what I love is you really don’t have to eat much of them to reap the benefits.  Brazil nuts are great too!  Oh and pecans!

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