Once thought of as high calorie treats to be avoided, nuts and seeds are emerging as an important component of a healthy dietary pattern.
All Seeds: Nuts and seeds are a rich source of plant protein, have plenty of dietary fiber, and are high in heart-healthy mono-and polyunsaturated fats (including plant omega-3 fatty acids) and low in saturated fats. They also contain many vitamins and minerals (such as vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and manganese) and a collection of plant chemicals with potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Nuts and seeds are often thought of as separate categories, but they are actually all seeds of flowering plants. What we call seeds (like sunflower, flax, chia, and pumpkin seeds) come from flowers and crops. Nuts are seeds of trees. Common nut varieties include almonds, cashews, macadamias, pistachios, and walnuts. Peanuts are not technically nuts—they are legumes like beans, lentils, and peas—but they are nutritionally similar to tree nuts and commonly treated as nuts.
Health Impact: Frequent nut consumption is associated with a lower risk of developing high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and cancer, and evidence from clinical trials has suggested nut consumption may improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels, insulin resistance and oxidative stress.
Swapping less nutritious foods with nuts and seeds may be an impactful dietary change. In a study by Tufts’ researchers that looked at the association between various dietary factors and death from heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes in the U.S., low intake of nuts and seeds was more strongly associated with these diet-related deaths than any dietary factor except high intake of sodium.