Nuts are underrated as nutritious snacks - particularly raw tree nuts, such as almonds, cashews, walnuts, and more, which according to, have been linked to lower cholesterol, better heart health, weight control, and even a lower cancer risk.

Joy Bauer, Today Show nutritionist and bestselling author, calls the lack of nuts in most people’s diet, “A shame because a small handful can pack your diet with filling protein, fiber, unsaturated fats, and important vitamins
and minerals.”

Here are some reasons why nuts should be incorporated into just about everyone’s diet:

Walnuts (about 14 walnut halves = 185 calories, 18 grams fat)

Walnuts have most antioxidants of all nuts, which help protect your body from the cellular damage that contributes to heart disease, cancer, and premature aging. In addition walnuts  the richest in omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation and a great way to get these healthy unsaturated fats if you’re not a fish fan. One more reason ‹ walnuts have manganese and may reduce PMS symptoms.

Almonds (about 23 nuts = 170 calories, 15 grams fat)

Almonds contain the most fiber ‹ about three grams per ounce ‹ compared to other nuts, and are richest in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. In one International Journal of Obesity study, when two groups of obese adults followed low-calorie diets for six months, those who included almonds in their weight loss plans lost more weight than those who ate more complex carbohydrates. Other research shows that almonds are especially healthy for people worried about their blood sugar: Those who ate about 20 percent of their calories from almonds for four months saw their bad LDL cholesterol drop and their insulin resistance decrease compared to a control group who didn’t eat them. Almonds may even be good for your gut: A test-tube study (funded by the Almond Board of California) found that the nuts raised levels of good bacteria that bolster the body’s immune system.

Cashews (about 18 nuts = 165 calories, 13 grams fat)

Cashews are particularly rich in iron and zinc.  “Iron helps deliver oxygen to all of your cells, which can prevent anemia, and zinc is critical to immune health and healthy vision,” Bauer said. Cashews are also a good source of magnesium: One ounce provides almost 25 percent of your daily need. Magnesium may help improve memory and protect against age-related memory loss, according to a study in the journal Neuron.

Pecans (about 18 halves = 200 calories, 21 grams fat)

Among the most antioxidant-rich nuts, pecans can help improve your heart health by preventing plaque formation in the arteries.  A Journal of Nutrition study (funded partly by the National Pecan Shellers Association) found that consuming pecans can help lower LDL cholesterol levels by as much as 33 percent. Pecans may also buffer brain health, according to an animal study from the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The vitamin E found in the nuts could delay progression of degenerative neurological diseases like amyotropic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Brazil Nuts (5 t 6 nuts = 185 calories and 18 grams fat)

Just one Brazil nut packs more than 100 percent of the daily value for the mineral selenium, which may help prevent certain cancers, including bone, prostate, and breast cancer. A recent study in the Journal of Medicinal Food suggests that the selenium found in Brazil nuts, along with soy, may help fight prostate cancer by inhibiting the growth of cancerous cells. Just don’t overdo it on Brazil nuts: High levels of selenium can be harmful, so stick to a serving or less.

Macadamia Nuts (10 nuts = 200 calories, 22 grams fat)

Ounce for ounce they’re one of the most calorie-dense nuts,but  macadamia nuts contain the greatest amount of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat (good fat that lowers LDL bad cholesterol levels) per serving. A Pennsylvania
State University study (funded partly by the Hershey Company, which owns the Mauna Loa Macademia company) found that people who added macadamia nuts to their diets reduced their triglyceride levels, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol by nearly 10 percent.

Pistachios (about 50 nuts = 160 calories, 14 grams fat)

Pistachios are the most slimming nuts, with less than four calories each. They may also help you breathe easier. University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center researchers found that eating two ounces of pistachios daily may reduce lung cancer risk. Pistachios are rich in the antioxidant gamma-tocopherol, a form of cancer-fighting vitamin E. Pistachios are also packed with potassium, a mineral essential for a healthy nervous system and muscles, and are a good source of vitamin B6, which can lift your mood, fortify your immune system, and more.

Hazelnuts (about 21 nuts = 180 calories, 17 grams fat)

An all-around healthy nut, hazelnuts are notable for their high levels of monounsaturated fats, which can improve cardiovascular health and help to manage type 2 diabetes, according to Bauer. They’re also rich in the antioxidant vitamin E, which may prevent cataracts and macular degeneration, maintain healthy skin, and reduce risk of dementia.