Like other plant foods, nuts provide a range of nutrients, including large quantities of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (49–74% total fat), and moderate amounts of protein (9–20%) (except chestnuts which are low fat).
Nuts are also a good source of dietary fibre and provide a wide range of essential nutrients, including several B group vitamins (including folate), vitamin E, minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, potassium and magnesium, antioxidant minerals (selenium, manganese and copper), plus other phytochemicals such as antioxidant compounds (flavonoids and resveratrol) and plant sterols.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines include nuts in the same food group as meat, fish, poultry, eggs and legumes, due to their protein content. A daily serving of 30g is recommended, but an additional 10g of nuts a day can be used in place of other healthy fat foods as well.
Each nut variety contains its own unique combination of nutrients and is generally rich in a few nutrients such as:
Almonds: protein, calcium and vitamin E
Brazil nuts: fibre and selenium: just two brazil nuts a day provides 100% RDI for selenium for an adult
Cashews: non haem (plant based) iron and a low GI rating
Chestnuts: low GI, fibre and vitamin C (although much vitamin C is lost during cooking)
Hazelnuts: fibre, potassium, folate, vitamin E
Macadamias: highest in monounsaturated fats, thiamin and manganese
Pecans: fibre and antioxidants
Pine nuts: vitamin E and the arginine amino acid
Pistachios: protein, potassium, plant sterols and the antioxidant resveratrol
Walnuts: alpha linoleic acid: plant omega 3 and antioxidants
Nuts are naturally low in sodium, contain potassium and most contain some carbohydrate in the form of natural sugars. Chestnuts are different they are rich in low glycemic index carbohydrates and low in fat making them more like a grain than a tree nut.