The Nutritional Value of Nuts

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Nuts are very nutritious. After pure fats and oils, they’re the richest foods that we eat, averaging around 600 calories (kcal) per quarter-pound/100 gm; by comparison, fatty beef averages 200 calories, and dry starchy grains 350. Nuts can be 50% or more oil, 10–25% protein, and are a good source of several vitamins and minerals and of fiber. Notable among the vitamins is the antioxidant vitamin E, especially concentrated in hazelnuts and almonds, and folic acid, which is thought to be important for cardiovascular health. Most nut oils are made up primarily of monounsaturated fatty acids, and have more polyunsaturates than saturated fats (exceptions are coconuts with a large dose of saturated fat, and walnuts and pecans, which are predominantly polyunsaturated). And nut seed coats are rich in antioxidant phenolic compounds. This cluster of characteristics—a favorable balance of fats, copious antioxidants, and folic acid— may explain why epidemiological surveys have found nut consumption to be associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.