What are the top 3 healthiest nuts?

Nuts are nutritional powerhouses packed with healthy fats, protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. While all nuts can be part of a healthy diet, some varieties are particularly nutritious. Here we look at the top 3 healthiest nuts based on nutrient density, nutritional profile, and proven health benefits.


Almonds top the list as one of the healthiest nuts. They are rich in monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, magnesium, fiber, and antioxidants. Research shows almonds can:

  • Lower LDL cholesterol and reduce heart disease risk
  • Reduce blood sugar levels and diabetes risk
  • Promote weight loss when included in a controlled diet
  • Improve gut health and digestion
  • Support brain health and cognition

A 1 ounce (28 gram) serving of almonds contains:

Calories 163
Fat 14g
Protein 6g
Fiber 4g
Vitamin E 37% DV
Magnesium 19% DV

Almonds are incredibly nutrient dense, providing a strong dose of nutrition including healthy fats, protein, fiber and key vitamins and minerals like vitamin E and magnesium in just 1 ounce. Their high monounsaturated fat content from oleic acid is beneficial for heart health.

Heart Health Benefits

Multiple studies show almonds can lower LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and oxidized LDL particles. This helps reduce cardiovascular disease risk by improving blood lipid levels.

One analysis of 61 studies found a consistent LDL cholesterol lowering effect from eating almonds or other tree nuts. On average, eating 2-3 ounces of almonds per day lowered LDL by 5 mg/dL.

Almonds’ healthy fats, plant sterols, fiber, and antioxidants are responsible for their cholesterol lowering effect. They may also reduce absorption of cholesterol in the gut.

Weight Management

Despite being high in fat and calories, almonds do not lead to increased body weight when eaten in moderation. Their protein, fiber, and monounsaturated fat promotes satiety and prevents overeating.

Clinical trials show that adding 1.5-2 ounces of almonds into a calorie controlled diet can boost weight loss compared to a nut free diet. People eating almonds experience less hunger and more satisfaction.

Diabetes Control

Eating almonds regularly has been shown to lower blood sugar levels and reduce risks associated with diabetes. This is attributed to their ability to slow digestion and regulate post-meal blood sugar spikes.

One study found consuming 60 grams of almonds a day for 16 weeks lowered hemoglobin A1c readings in diabetic individuals compared to a nut free diet. Better blood sugar control occurred even without changes in body weight.

Almonds’ healthy fats and fiber help slow nutrient absorption, preventing blood sugar from rising too quickly after meals. Magnesium in almonds also contributes to better insulin function and blood sugar control.

Brain Health

The nutrient profile of almonds makes them an excellent brain food and potential neuroprotective food. Almonds provide vitamin E, magnesium, riboflavin, L-carnitine and polyphenols that benefit cognitive function.

Animal studies show almond rich diets can improve memory, learning, and reduce cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Human studies also correlate higher nut intake with better brain health and cognition in older adults. Almonds’ content of healthy fats, vitamin E, and anti-inflammatory compounds likely exerts neuroprotective effects.

Downsides of Almonds

Almonds are very calorically dense, with 163 calories in a 1 ounce serving. Eating too many can hinder weight loss goals. An ounce or two per day to reap health benefits is recommended.

Almonds’ fiber content can cause gas or bloating when overeaten. Soaking overnight and rinsing almonds before eating improves digestibility.

A very small percentage of people may have a tree nut allergy to almonds. Allergy symptoms like hives, itching, and swelling should be monitored.


Walnuts are another top nut for health and nutrition. They contain the highest amount of omega-3 alpha linoleic acid (ALA) compared to other nuts. Walnuts provide:

  • Plant-based omega-3 fats for heart and brain health
  • Antioxidants like polyphenols, vitamin E, and selenium
  • L-arginine for healthy blood pressure
  • Anti-inflammatory benefits

A 1 ounce serving of walnuts offers:

Calories 185
Fat 18g
Protein 4g
Fiber 2g
Omega-3 ALA 2.6g
Vitamin E 1mg

Walnuts provide essential omega-3s, with 2.5 grams per ounce. Diets higher in omega-3s from plants like walnuts are associated with better heart health.

Heart Health

Walnuts appear to improve several heart health risk factors. This includes reducing inflammation, oxidative stress, fat deposition, and fibrosis in arteries.

Population studies link higher walnut intake to lower rates of heart disease. One study of over 34,000 adults found people eating walnuts had a significantly reduced risk of coronary heart disease.

Walnuts may improve cholesterol levels too. One study showed LDL cholesterol was reduced by 6% compared to a nut free diet when people ate 1.3 ounces of walnuts daily.

Brain Function

Walnuts have been shown in animal research to improve memory, learning ability, and reduce cognitive decline associated with aging. This is likely due to walnuts’ fatty acid profile and high antioxidant content.

Human studies also correlate higher walnut intake with better cognition in adults. One study associated walnut consumption with enhanced cognitive function including memory, concentration, and information processing speed.

Cancer Prevention

Walnuts contain multiple compounds that exhibit anti-cancer properties. These include omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and phenolic compounds that reduce inflammation.

One human study showed a diet containing walnuts suppressed growth of prostate cancer cells. Another study linked higher walnut intake with significantly lower breast cancer risk in women.

Downsides of Walnuts

Like almonds, walnuts are very high in calories and fats so portions must be monitored to avoid excess calorie intake. Around 1-2 ounces of walnuts per day is recommended.

Some digestive discomfort like bloating can occur if you’re not used to eating a lot of fiber from nuts. Start with small portions of walnuts to assess tolerance.

Rancid walnuts should always be avoided, as the fats have oxidized. Store walnuts in a cool dry place or refrigerate to prevent rancidity.


Pistachios round out the top three healthiest nuts. They are rich in protein, fiber, antioxidants, and various micronutrients like B vitamins and potassium. Benefits of pistachios include:

  • Weight loss when eaten in moderation
  • Improved gut health and digestion
  • Lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Blood sugar control

One ounce of pistachios offers:

Calories 160
Protein 6g
Fiber 3g
Potassium 290mg
Vitamin B6 20% DV
Thiamine 15% DV

Pistachios offer a wealth of nutrients in each serving including protein, fiber, and essential micronutrients. But they really shine in their very high antioxidant content.

Antioxidant Powerhouses

Pistachios contain more antioxidants per serving than most other nuts and seeds. This includes antioxidants like lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, and gamma-tocopherol.

When compared to other popular snacks in a 2012 study, pistachios had the highest antioxidant activity. The potent antioxidants in pistachios can help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.

Blood Sugar Control

Despite having a higher carb content than most nuts, pistachios have a low glycemic index, meaning they don’t spike blood sugar. Studies show pistachios improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes and prediabetes.

One study found eating 2-3 ounces of pistachios for 3 months lowered hemoglobin A1c in Chinese adults with diabetes. The fiber, protein, and fat in nuts slows the absorption of sugars.

Digestive Health

Pistachios are high in fiber, providing 3 grams per ounce. The fiber has prebiotic effects in the digestive tract to boost healthy gut bacteria. Pistachios may also assist with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

One study showed 2 ounces of pistachios a day for 3 weeks significantly improved stool frequency in people with chronic constipation.

Downsides of Pistachios

Pistachios are very high in calories, with 160 calories in just 1 ounce. Be mindful of portions to avoid excess calories.

They also contain a fair amount of fiber, so overdoing portions can result in gas, bloating or digestive upset in some individuals.

Some pesticide residues may be present on non-organic pistachios. Opt for organic when possible or look for pistachios grown in the US or Italy, which have lower pesticide use.


Almonds, walnuts, and pistachios top the list of healthiest nuts due to their stellar nutrient profiles and proven health benefits. They are loaded with healthy fats, protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that offer cardio, brain, anti-cancer, blood sugar control and digestive benefits.

Aim for 1-2 servings of your favorite healthy nuts per day as part of a balanced diet, but be mindful of keeping portions in check due to the high calorie density of nuts.


  • Almonds are the overall highest quality nut, providing the most benefit for heart health, weight management, diabetes prevention, and brain function.
  • Walnuts are highest in essential omega-3 fatty acids for brain and heart health. They also have strong anti-cancer benefits.
  • Pistachios have very high antioxidant content to lower disease risk. They also benefit blood sugar, digestion, cholesterol, and weight control.
  • Enjoy 1-2 ounces of these healthy nuts daily as part of a nutritious diet, and store properly to prevent rancidity.

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