Skip to content

15 Nuts Better than Supplements and Protein Powder

Certain nuts can reduce cholesterol, blast fat, relieve depression or give you X-ray vision. So we took the most popular into our Eat This, Not That! Food lab to rank them for nutrition.

"You're nuts," my friend exclaimed the other day. Confused and a bit shocked, I replied with a meek, "What did I do?" She tossed her head back and laughed, pointing to my snack drawer. "No, your nuts! Toss me a handful please. My doctor recently said I have a thyroid condition and that Brazil nuts would help."

Smart doctor. You can toss 'em into salads, atop quinoa bowls, mix a few into a hearty bowl of oatmeal, and—of couse— find them scattered admist a sea of dried fruit and bits of dark chocolate in a tasty trail mix. But nuts don't just taste good—they do good.

Besides their crunchy texture, small bite-size, and earthy flavor, nuts also deliver the a plethora of nutrients to the body, if you choose the right one. In some cases, these nutrients can even help your body heal itself from certain diseases and disorders. With that in mind, Eat This, Not That! studied the most popular nuts to find the top health benefit for each. Our exclusive report follows—and for more of our scientifically-proven research that can lead to a happier and healthier you, don't miss these 50 Ways to Lose 10 Pounds—Fast!

Eat This Nut If…

You Have High Cholesterol



Besides being an easy go-to snack that you can whip out of your bag during a good ol' 9-5 shift, almonds are also chock-full of essential vitamins and minerals, with vitamin E and biotin being the most predominant. Those nutrients enable your skin to remain smooth and gives your lush hair and strong nails the nutrition they need to flourish. Almonds have another very important nutrient, perhaps the most effective on this list: Monounsaturated fats, one of the best healthy fats. They have the ability to lower the bad cholesterol called, LDL, that's infamous for clogging your arteries. In fact, almonds possess the richest source of monounsaturated fats (compared to some of the other nuts on this list)!

Eat This, Not That! Tip:

Eating a handful of almonds or two tablespoons of almond butter daily should do just the trick.

You Have Anxiety or Depression



Nuts house an impressive amount of amino acids, the building blocks to protein, and there's one specifically found in cashews that curbs the symptoms of not only stress, but anxiety and depression as well. Trytrophan is the name of this miracle-working amino acid, and cashews house anywhere from 1,000-2,000 mg of it per ¼ cup! The way trytophan works is quite simple; it helps to improve the uptake of serotonin, otherwise known as the "feel good" hormone in the brain. So like 2+2=4, an adequate intake of trytophan yields to a more efficient production of serotonin which, drum roll please, subsides feelings of being anxious, stressed and just downright blue.

Eat This, Not That! Tip:

Cashews also make for a killer creamy nut butter!

Heart Disease Runs in Your Family



This versatile, almost buttery tasting nut is credible for giving the European decadent chocolate spread, Nutella, it's nutty flavor. While hazelnuts are irresistible all crushed in the spread, you may want to consider buying some of its raw form in bulk, and a lot more often. Despite it being deemed as Oregon's official state nut, the hazelnut is most known for its high content of proanthocyanidins or PACs. PACs are a subgroup of polyphenols that help strengthen blood vessels, lower blood pressure and even reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Eat This, Not That! Tip:

These heart healthy nuts are also very low in saturated fat, so eating a serving of these a few times a week will not mess with your weight loss goals.

You Just Finished a Killer Workout



Peanuts are classified as being one of the top foods with a naturally occurring leucine content. Leucine what?, you may be thinking after skimming that first line. Leucine is the amino acid responsible for muscle protein synthesis, so, after you finish a workout it's vital you replenish your muscles with a healthy dose of it. Especially if you're trying to make some gains! Protein powders that have soy and whey proteins offer the most leucine for the least amount of calories, respectively. But, that's not to say a daily dose of peanuts and/or a tablespoon or two of peanut butter won't help stimulate muscle growth.

Eat This, Not That! Tip:

If you opt for the peanut butter route, make sure to pick ones that are free of partially-hydrogentated oils. Peanut butter after all, should only be made of one ingredient— peanuts. Check out this article, The 36 Top Peanut Butters—Ranked, to see where your fave PB ranks on the list!

Alzheimer's Disease Runs in Your Family



Who doesn't love to have a slice of pecan pie over the holidays? Well don't wait for Christmas to roll around, or depend on a pie for that matter, to receive the benefits of this nut! Pecans are rich in magnesium, a mineral that works to diminish inflammation in the body. This is huge for people who have Alzheimer's disease running amuck in your family tree.

Eat This, Not That! Tip:

Add a handful to your favorite sweet potato recipe for a delicious, holiday-inspired duo! But skip the pie.

You Want to Lessen Your Appetite

Pine nuts

One thing's for sure, pine nuts are expensive. But buying them may help you save money because you'll want to eat less overall. Not only is it a wonderful addition to a classic, homemade pesto with fresh basil, olive oil and topped with freshly minced garlic, it also serves as an effective appetite suppressant. A study that was presented to the American Chemical Society in 2006 demonstrated that pinolenic acid (an unsaturated fatty acid solely found in pine nuts and its oil) suppressed the appetite in overweight women, enabling them to reduce overall food intake by 37 percent. Pretty nutty!

Eat This, Not That! Tip:

Ditch the extra carbs from that heaping bowl of noodles and, instead, whip up a homemade pesto with pine nuts galore. It will be a nice dressing for your kale salad!

You Want Your Waistline to Shrink



This is a nut you want to start eating by the handful, literally. Pistachios contain fewer calories but more potassium and vitamin K than any other nut in the market. A one ounce serving of dry-roasted pistachios contains just 160 calories, yet packs six grams of protein, three grams of fiber and 15 grams of fat. For comparison, cashews, which are another great low fat option, only contain 16-18 nuts per one ounce serving, whereas pistachios are able to squeeze a whopping 49 nuts (with the shell removed, that is) into that miniscule one ounce measure.

Eat This, Not That! Tip:

Did you know if you buy pistachios with the shells on you are bound to eat less? Sounds like shelled pistachios may be the next "how to lose 10 pounds" trend.

You're a Dude



Men, this one's especially for you. According to the academic journal, "Biology of Reproduction" one of the lesser-known benefit of walnuts is their influence on a man's fertility. The article explains that among the men who consumed a nutrient-lacking, western-style diet (you know, one comprised of a majority of fast food and with a shortage of fresh produce) significantly improved their sperm quality by adding just 75 grams of walnuts to their daily routine.

Eat This, Not That! Tip:

For long lasting results, though, it's best to make the transition to an all around healthier diet.

Your Thyroid is Out of Whack

Brazil Nuts


Brazil nuts have more selenium than any other nut out there. Like about 2,500 times more! Just two single nuts provide you with more than one day's worth of the mineral. This is significant to those who struggle with thyroid issues, because selenium is vital for optimal thyroid health.

Eat This, Not That! Tip:

Brazil nuts have a rich, creamy flavor. Add the nut, chopped, to oatmeal with some fruit and honey, pop them in your mouth raw, or roast them for 10 minutes with a bit of maple syrup and salt.

You Want to Stabilize Your Blood Sugar


"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your… uh, blood sugar?" Okay so that's not exactly how the song goes, but it may as well because chestnuts (not Jack Frost) are responsible for keeping your blood sugar levels at bay. Unlike other nuts, chestnuts have a higher carbohydrate content, specifically 43 grams per three ounce serving. Fortunately, plant-based foods that have carbs are made up solely of the complex variety, which takes longer for your body to digest. Since these carbs don't pass through your system super quick, this allows your energy levels to stay constant.

Eat This, Not That! Tip:

Speaking of the holidays, we love chestnuts in turkey stuffing.

You Want to Reduce Body Fat



Stomach fat is a scorge—and can lead to heart disease and diabetes, among other risks. Macadamia nuts, despite their high-in-fat composition, are little belly-fat blasters. The nut is one of the few foods that has palmitoleic acid, which may actually aid in fat metabolism and reduce the amount of stored body fat.

Eat This, Not That! Tip:

Due to its medium to high smoke point, macadamia nut oil is best suited for baking, stir frying and oven cooking.

You Want to Improve Your Vision

Pinon (Indian) Nuts

The pinon nut a type of pine nut, however, it's health benefits are so great we've decided to give it its own recognition. Of the many, the most interesting benefit is its stores of vitamin A and lutein, both of which help to support clear vision. These two elements actually protect the retina and prevent cataracts from forming. The only downside to these nuts? They are quite rare— a good crop of pinon is only said to be produced once every three to seven years! But you can find them at online providers like

Eat This, Not That! Tip:

Pinon nuts pair harmoniously with fish! Opt for a wild caught, fillet of salmon for some extra omega-3s.

You're Having Stomach Problems

Tiger Nuts

These funky looking nuts get their cool name for the cool print that coats its skin. So how do tiger nuts aid with digestive health? The answer: Resistant starch and tiger nuts are full of it. Advances in Nutrition (2013) analyzes a variety of studies that examine the effect of resistant starch on promoting the growth of good gut bacteria.

Eat This, Not That! Tip:

Research from these studies prove this statement true and even goes so far as to say it may be able to prevent or cure diabetes and inflammatory diseases!

You Need a Burst of Energy

Cacao Beans

Technically speaking, these 'lil guys are referred to as beans, but they tend to fall under the nut family because of their appearance. Regardless of what you choose to call them one thing remains consistent—their ability to give you a powerful surge of caffeine. The cacao bean is also coined as one of the most concentrated sources of antioxidants on the planet.

Eat This, Not That! Tip:

It's no wonder why ancient cultures deemed them as the food of the gods! You actually stumble upon them more often than you think, except the kinds you encounter are called cacao nibs. Cacao nibs are simply roasted cacao beans, so you can buy these at any health food store and sprinkle it upon cereal or oatmeal for a sweet twist!

You Don't Eat Meat

Soy Nuts

Often times soy gets a bad rap because of the way it's highly processed when it takes on anything other than its natural form, such as partially hydrogenated soybean oil. When you eat it in its natural form, however, they're incredibly high in protein and do not have trans fat like its oil counterpart does. Just one single cup of cooked soybeans—as before, the words beans and nuts are again interchangeable here—provides an astounding 28.6 grams of protein. That's more protein than a three ounce flank of beef!

Eat This, Not That! Tip:

For soybeans you will want to soak the dried beans overnight and then boil them the next morning. If you want crunchy texture of a nut, however, after they have soaked over toss them onto a baking sheet and throw 'em in the oven until they are a crisp, golden brown!


Eat This, Not That!
Inspired by The New York Times best-selling book series, Eat This, Not That! is a brand that's comprised of an award-winning team of journalists and board-certified experts, doctors, nutritionists, chefs, personal trainers, and dietitians who work together to bring you accurate, timely, informative, and actionable content on food, nutrition, dieting, weight loss, health, wellness, and more. Read more about Eat This
Filed Under