Almond butter contains 26% more vitamin E, 3% more iron, and 7% more calcium than peanut butter. It also contains 50% more monosaturated fat and 25% less saturated fat than peanut butter. Almonds are the best nut source of vitamin E, a nutrient many people are deficient in. A quarter-cup serving of almonds provides 7.6 grams of protein—more than a large egg, which contains 6 grams. You will also find plenty of riboflavin, iron, potassium, magnesium, and fiber in almond butter.
Though we think of almonds as nuts, technically they’re the seed of the fruit of the almond tree. Nut or seed, this is one high-fat food with serious nutritional firepower. Sixty percent of the fatty acids in almonds are the monounsaturated kind, a healthful fat shown to reduce circulating levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol. Almonds are also chock-full of vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that protects against cognitive decline and several cancers. The fiber in almond skins may exert a prebiotic effect and increase the beneficial bacteria in the gut to improve digestion and bolster immune defense. To keep your calorie intake in check, limit yourself to 1 ounce (about 25 almonds) per serving.
Popular as a novelty product to the tune of Ch-ch-ch-chia!, the seeds of the Salvia hispanica plant are also becoming known as a functional food. Chia seeds are full of inflammation-fighting antioxidants and heart-healthful omega-3 fats and fiber. Factor in the bone-building trio of calcium (about six times the amount in milk), magnesium, and phosphorus, and you’ve got an amazing seed worth singing about.
The seeds of the flax plant are in the research spotlight. Because of their fiber, ground flaxseeds have shown promise as a treatment for constipation and irritable bowel syndrome, lessening symptoms significantly more than psyllium fiber. Fiber is also thought to be behind flaxseeds’ success in reducing cholesterol levels, and further evidence indicates that flaxseeds might help combat certain cancers, including breast and prostate cancers. Both the seeds and oil contain alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid similar to those in fish oil that may offer some of the same benefits, such as reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.
Almonds, cashews, pistachio, peanuts, and pecans are just a small portion of the long list of nuts. While nutritious and tasty on their own, nuts make great additions to salads and soups as toppings, desserts, savory recipes, and blended in sauces.
This nutty spread has much more purpose than being paired with jelly on sandwiches. Peanut butter is a perfect addition to cookies, muffins, and baked goods. It makes a great addition to tasty sauces for savory dishes as well.
Pistachios add satisfying crunch to whole-grain salads, baked goods, oatmeal, and ice cream. Try roasting them with Chinese five-spice powder, or whirl up a smoothie with pistachios, yogurt, soymilk, and ginger. Limit yourself to a handful, or 1 ounce, to avoid calorie overload, says Nussinow. And buy pistachios in the shellthe extra work of shelling may help control intake.