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Ask a health expert

Does toasting nuts make them unhealthy? Add to ...

The question

Does heating or toasting nuts change their nutritional value? What are the best nuts to eat from a nutritional basis?

The answer

The nutritional difference between raw and dry roasted (not oil roasted!) nuts is very, very minimal. For example, one ounce of raw almonds (about 22) has 163 calories, 14 grams of fat, 6.1 grams of carbohydrate, 3.5 grams of fibre, 75 milligrams of calcium and 76 milligrams of magnesium.

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The same amount of dry roasted almonds has 169 calories, 14.7 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbohydrate, 3.1 grams of fibre, 76 milligrams of calcium and 80 milligrams of magnesium. You do not lose nutritional value by dry roasting nuts.

Studies show that all types of nuts have health benefits – from almonds to cashews to pine nuts. Nuts help lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. One recent study found that eating a daily serving of unsalted nuts including raw almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, peanuts, cashews and macadamias lowered blood sugar and LDL (bad) cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes.

Nuts vary in the nutrients they provide. Some are rich in vitamin E while others are a better source of calcium. Here’s a quick look:

• Almonds: riboflavin, vitamin E, magnesium

• Brazil nuts: magnesium, selenium, copper

• Cashews: magnesium, copper, plant sterols

• Hazelnuts: vitamin E, copper, manganese

• Macadamia nuts: manganese, plant sterols

• Peanuts: niacin, manganese

• Pecans: copper, manganese

• Pine nuts: magnesium, copper, manganese, plant sterols

• Pistachios: vitamin B6, copper, manganese

• Walnuts: copper, manganese, ALA (an omega-3 fat)

Choose raw or dry roasted nuts and buy them unsalted. If you snack on oil roasted, you’ll consume extra fat. Salted nuts contain up to 250 milligrams of sodium per one ounce serving.

Nuts are high in calories and easy to overeat. To prevent weight gain, substitute nuts for an equal number of calories from refined (white) starchy foods (e.g. bread, cereal, rice, pasta), sweets and sugary drinks.

Seeds are also a heart healthy addition to your diet. You don’t hear their health benefits praised as often as nuts because they haven’t been the focus of scientific studies. But pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds are all good for you. One tip for sesame seeds: because they are so tiny, first grind them into a meal, and then add them to foods like salads and stir-fries.

Otherwise, they’re likely to pass through the intestinal tract undigested.

Send dietitian Leslie Beck your questions at dietitian@globeandmail.com. She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Leslie Beck.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Follow on Twitter: @lesliebeckrd

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