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Health Nuts

It's important to learn which nuts truly are healthy, and which ones to leave in the dish.

Vikes Trail Mix Photo by James Ramsay; Food Stylist: Susan Benson CohenAre nuts really good for you? The short answer is that some are and some aren’t. It’s important to learn which nuts truly are healthy, and which ones to leave in the dish.

All nuts contain polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) and monounsaturated fats (MUFAs). When MUFAs replace saturated fats, your blood-cholesterol profile improves. PUFAs, however, are slightly more complicated. They’re usually categorized as omega-6 or omega-3. Omega-3s are hard to find; walnuts are the only notable nut source. In contrast, omega-6s are in every nut and too many omega-6s can be bad for you, as it increases inflammation after running.

Nuts are more than just a potentially healthy fat source. They also have vitamin E and a great balance of fibre, various micro minerals and protein. The recommended daily allowance for vitamin E is 8 to 10 mg per day. All nuts contain some vitamin E, but almonds and hazel nuts are the highest (8 and 4 mg per ounce), dwarfing the next contender, brazil nuts (2 mg).

Almonds, cashews and pistachios are the highest in protein (5 to 6 g per ounce), while all nuts contain roughly the same amount of fibre, 3 grams per serving. Most nuts contain about 1 mg iron and of zinc, and 30 to 40 mg of calcium. Almonds are again the strongest, with 75 mg of calcium and 13 mg iron per serving. It seems we have a clear winner for best nut.

You’ll notice, however, walnuts have been left out of the comparison. The walnut is an average nut in all areas until we look at fat composition. While they’re higher in total fat than almonds by 4 grams – almonds have 14 g and 165 calories, and walnuts have 18 g and 185 calories per ounce – walnuts have nearly as much omega-3s as flax seed.  For that reason, walnuts should be considered one of the healthiest nut options – second only to almonds, of course.

The next time you’re rooting through a mixed nut dish, go for the winners: Almonds and walnuts are the clear front runners in this category.

Bobbi Barbarich, RD, MSc, is a contributing editor at Canadian Running. Reach her at info@bobbibarbarich.ca

Runner’s Kitchen


Vikes Trail Mix

By Josh Clouthier

This creative trail mix recipe is a staple for runners on the University of Victoria Vikings cross-country team. Josh Clouthier, a third year runner on the team, adapted the recipe from a homemade oatmeal bar.


2/3 cup oats
1 banana, mushed
2-3 tbsp jam or apple sauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup almonds
1 cup cashews
1/2 cup pumpkin and/or sunflower seeds
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
(Note: amounts of nuts and dark chocolate chips can be varied based on preference)

1. Mix oats, mushed banana, jam or apple sauce, vanilla extract, and cinnamon in a bowl.
2. Roll mixture into small balls and place on baking sheet.
3. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 F.
4. Mix oat balls with almonds, cashews, pumpkin/sunflower seeds, and dark chocolate chips.

Nutritional Information (per ½ cup serving):

Calories 344

Total Fat 22.7 g

Cholesterol 0

Potassium 383 mg

Carbohydrates 36.1 g

Fibre 5.5 g

Protein 8.1 g

Sugar 13 g