Good Nuts to Crack

From almonds to pistachios, tasty munchies to boost your health.
By Molly Lyons

Wish you could ditch your snack attacks? Maybe you don’t need to after all. Research shows munching on smaller meals throughout the day can actually help you shed pounds—but only if you choose wisely. “Nuts are a compact way of getting a lot of nutrition,” says Marietta Amatangelo, RD, an integrative nutritionist at George Washington University’s Center for Integrative Medicine in Washington, DC. “They provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, and fiber.” Sure these nutritional gems are generally high in calories, but as long as you don’t go wild and crazy with your portions, they shouldn’t threaten your weight-loss goals and, in fact, they may even help. “Because they’re filling, nuts can actually keep you on your diet,” says Amatangelo, who recommends eating no more than 10 to 12 nuts a day. If you get bored with the same-old, same-olds, then branch out and mix it up with these nutritious varieties. Plus, chefs weigh in on fun ways to cook with them. 

Hazelnuts
Also known as filberts, hazelnuts play a starring role in desserts, pastries, and chocolates. Nonetheless, they still earn the right to be classified as a health food. A 1-ounce serving provides almost a quarter of the recommended daily value of copper—important for making red blood cells and myelin, the substance that surrounds nerve fibers. One serving also provides a whopping 86 percent of the recommended daily value of manganese, a trace mineral that helps keep skin, bones, and cartilage healthy. 
go nuts: Use hazelnuts to give your Romanesco sauce some staying power, says Abby Fammartino, a natural food chef in Portland, Oregon. Blend skinned and toasted hazelnuts, roasted peppers, sautéed onions, toasted bread, olive oil, salt, and pepper until chunky then serve over roasted veggies, chicken, pasta, or fish.

Walnuts
These modest nuts are heavy hitters when it comes to all-important omega-3s—just a quarter cup provides 90 percent of the recommended daily intake of these essential fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation. A recent study from the University of Oslo also found walnuts to be among the highest plant-based sources of antioxidants, which are associated with preventing heart disease.
go nuts: Sprinkle walnuts over a salad or toss with roasted root vegetables. Better yet start your day on a healthy note: Make a morning porridge by blending walnuts, apples, and pears in a food processor, says Adina Niemerow, holistic chef and author of Supercleanse (Collins Living, 2008), and, if you like, spice it up with currants, ginger, or figs.

Pine nuts
Still not convinced a measly handful of nuts will satisfy your cravings? Go for an ounce of pine nuts. They’re so tiny—you get about 167 of them per ounce—that you’ll get more in a single serving than you will with other nuts. Plus pine nuts give you almost 20 percent of your daily recommended vitamin K, essential for helping your blood clot. They’re also extremely high in manganese. 
go nuts: While your Italian nonna may add pignoli to her pesto, Fammartino suggests another use: swap pine nuts for ricotta cheese in your lasagna. Soak pine nuts for an hour, blend in a food processor, mix with a little lemon juice, salt, and olive oil, and then layer between lasagna noodles and tomato sauce. Bonus: you get a dairy-free, low-fat dish. 

Pistachios
Packed with thiamin—essential for neural function and carbohydrate metabolism—these flavorful green nuts provide as much potassium in a single serving as a banana. Studies have also found that pistachios help lower cholesterol, slow the absorption of carbohydrates, and can even reduce stress. 
go nuts: Add a little something sweet to your next salad. Fammartino tosses shelled pistachios with sugar, toasts them in the oven, and then sprinkles them on top of greens. If you prefer savory, Niemerow suggests you use them instead of chickpeas in your hummus. Just blend the raw nuts with lemon, ground sesame seeds, tahini, parsley, and garlic. 

Macadamia
Macadamia nuts get a bad rap for their high caloric content. Although they do have about 200 calories per ounce, they contain good fats—mostly monounsaturated. Research also shows that macadamias may reduce your risk of heart disease and they contain a good amount of calcium, which will keep your teeth and bones healthy.
go nuts: Fammartino uses macadamias to dress up fish in a crunchy and rich-tasting crust. Dip white fish in coconut milk, roll in crushed macadamias, and bake.

Almonds
A veritable powerhouse of muscle-building protein and satiating fiber, almonds are a dieter’s best friend. Even if you don’t count calories, nutritionists still recommend a daily dose of almonds—especially for men. Why? Because a single 1-ounce serving packs almost 40 percent of your daily recommended dose of vitamin E, an important nutrient when it comes to staving off prostate cancer. 
go nuts: Make your next sandwich an AB&J. Almond butter is easy to make—just blend almonds in a food processor and add a pinch of salt, says Fammartino. Spread it on whole grain bread, or add a dollop to fruit smoothies for extra creaminess. Niemerow makes her own almond milk by soaking the almonds overnight, rinsing them, and then blending with some water on high speed. Strain the milk, and add to your breakfast cereal or tea. 

Molly Lyons is a writer in New York City.