Protein is an essential part of a balanced, healthy diet. It provides us with energy, helps to strengthen our bones and muscles, promotes healthy skin, and helps us feel full faster, resulting in us needing to consume less food. The trade-off of protein consumption is that it typically pairs with fats, which most people look to cut down on. Such is the case when consuming beef and pork, for instance.
However, consuming plant-based fats is less detrimental to human health, but what can pack these types of fats and the necessary protein together and help us eat maximally healthy, nutritious foods? The answer is nuts.
Aside from being one of the healthiest snacks around, nuts are versatile so you can eat snacks on them at home or on the go, and even add certain ones to bolster the flavor and excitement of other healthy nutritional consumables such as salads.
The best part of all is that protein is a component of basically every nut type in existence. However, the volume of protein certainly varies with some nuts being loaded with the stuff, while others only contain traces of it. Most fall somewhere in the middle. In this post, we will focus specifically on the 7 kinds of nuts that have the most protein. So let's get to it!
Native to the southern united states, pecans were first utilized by the French settlers of New Orleans. They were the first to utilize pecans in other types of foods, the most notable of which is pecan pie. Pecans are hardly a monolith in the nut world. There are over 1,000 different varieties of them. While their protein content isn’t immense, every ounce contains 2.6 protein grams, they have other attributes that make their consumption even more worthwhile. Of all tree nuts in existence, none have more phytochemical flavonoid concentrations that can rival that of pecans.
Hazelnuts don’t just have a delightful aroma and are used to make tasty coffee, they are packed with 4.25 protein grams per ounce. But the healthy credentials don’t end there. They are also jam-packed with folate, fiber, magnesium, calcium, and both Vitamins E and B. Typically, one does not consume hazelnuts on their own, as they have a bit of a bitter, buttery tinge, but they are enjoyed as part of other foods like Nutella spread which is a delicious spread that goes well with pretty much anything from bread to vegetables.
Packing more Omega-3 fatty acids (excellent for cognitive health and memory), walnuts contain about 4.32 protein grams per ounce and are one of the most delicious nut-based snacks to enjoy. The Omega-3 fatty acids are featured in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which studies have linked to lowering heart disease and act as anti-inflammatories. Walnuts pair nicely with ground meats, promoting richer flavors and creating an exponentially protein-packed meal. The only downside of walnuts is that they don’t keep great and go rancid rather quickly. However, they can be kept in the freezer or the fridge to slow down their unfortunately speedy degradation.
Cashews are America’s favorite nuts, with 90% of the world’s supply consumed across the 50 states. The only catch is, that while they have 5.15 grams of protein per ounce (that’s as much as an egg, by the way), they are not “technically” nuts. Cashews are actually green seeds retrieved from the bottoms of apples, then roasted to take their traditional form. The roasting process makes them safe to consume by neutralizing the oils. Cashews are easy to bake into pancakes and blended into smoothies. There are even an increasing number of products on the market to substitute for regular dairy products that are cashew-based.
Pistachios have been the most prominently consumed nut in history, with evidence showing that humans ate them as far back as 7,000 B.C. from Meditarrania to the ancient Middle East. In fact, they were even viewed as a royal delicacy for many centuries. These tasty nuts have about 5.8 grams of protein per ounce, are loaded with antioxidants, as well as being rich in anti-inflammatory properties. By comparison to other nuts, they have a higher amino-acid ratio to protein than almost any nut in existence, an important part of a healthy diet and a critical component of producing bodily proteins.
With an impressive 6 grams of protein, almonds are not truly nuts either, but rather, they are drupes (central seeded fleshy fruits akin to the cherry, mango, and peach family). Most people regard them as nuts and consume them for their anti-oxidants, with most of those being packed into the almonds’ brownish outer layer. Almonds are also stocked with unsaturated fats, fiber, and Vitamin E. They are even used to make dairy substitutes, as you have likely heard of or seen almond milk options at your regular grocery store. This superfood is not easy to produce though, with 1 almond needing a gallon of water to grow, and 1900 gallons are needed for a pound. Most almonds (about 80% of the 30 varieties in existence) are grown in California.
The number one nut on our protein list is actually not a nut either. Peanuts are legumes like lentils, chickpeas, and soybeans because they grow underground. They have the highest protein contents out of all consumed nut snacks, with over 7.3 grams of plant-based stuff per ounce. Some cultures use peanuts heavily in cooking, while many combine peanuts with other healthy, protein-heavy snacks for a maximally protein-optimized meal.
There you have it, the 7 nuts with the highest protein content. If you are looking to up your protein intake and you like any one or several nuts from this list, they are all great choices for delicious snack components or solitary, protein-filled consumables. Go nuts!