When you think about nuts, the usual players come to mind—almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, Brazil nuts. And they're all pretty solid choices, loaded with good fats, a variety of essential minerals, and health-boosting antioxidants. But we've been talking about the same old nuts for as long as any of us can remember, so when a new (or at least new to us) nut comes along, we get pretty excited. Enter: pili nuts.
What are pili nuts?
Pili nuts (pronounced pee-LEE) grow on tropical trees that are native across Southeast Asia, but they're only grown and cultivated as a food source in the rain forests of the Philippines, where they've been a major source of fat and protein in people's diets for years.
While pili nuts aren't technically new, many of us in the U.S. are just starting to hear about this snack for one key reason: They're the highest fat, lowest carb nut around. So, thanks in large part to the surging popularity of high-fat, low-carb keto diets, more companies are capitalizing on the trend by selling snack packs of shelled pili nuts, pili nut butter, and even yogurt featuring pili nuts (including LAVVA, a delicious plant-based yogurt).
With a rich flavor that's somewhere between a macadamia nut and cashew, and a softer, more buttery texture than other nuts, it's not hard to understand why they're becoming a favorite.
Health benefits of pili nuts.
When you compare pili nuts to other popular nuts, it's clear that they're the lowest carb option by a long shot—containing just 1 gram per ounce (about ¼ cup). The only other nut that comes close is macadamia nuts with 4 grams1 of carbs per ounce, while cashews clock in at 9 grams2 and almonds at 6 grams3. So if you're on the keto diet, and you're counting every single carb to hit your macros, then this nut could be a smart pick for snacking. But even if you're not overly fixated on carb count, pili nuts may be a healthy way to mix things up. "Pili nuts can be a great option to add to the rotation and incorporate heart-healthy fats into your diet," says mbg Collective member Jess Cording, R.D. "An ounce (about 15 kernels) provides around 200 calories and 22 grams of fat—11 grams of monounsaturated fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, and 3 grams of polyunsaturated fat."
The pili nut has a unique nutrient profile, and the vitamins and minerals found in the nut are readily absorbed 4by the body. You'll also get 17 percent of your daily recommended intake of thiamin5 (aka vitamin B1), which is important for the metabolism of carbs; 6 percent of your zinc6, which plays a key role in immune functioning; and 21 percent of your magnesium, which helps regulate mood and balance blood sugar, among many other things. It's particularly exciting that pili nuts are high in magnesium since between 50 and 90 percent of people don't have adequate levels.
Where to find pili nuts and how to use them.
You may not be able to find pili nuts at your local grocery store yet (Whole Foods Market does sell LAVVA yogurt, though, which is made with the nuts), but they're readily available online in sprouted, roasted, and seasoned varieties from Pili Hunters, Nuts.com, and Pure Traditions. Use them like you would any tasty nut—sprinkled onto salads, incorporated into trail mix, or even added to baked goods or oatmeal (as long as you're not doing the whole keto thing).
Stephanie Eckelkamp is a writer and editor who has been working for leading health publications for the past 10 years. She received her B.S. in journalism from Syracuse University with a minor in nutrition. In addition to contributing to mindbodygreen, she has written for Women's Health, Prevention, and Health. She is also a certified holistic health coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She has a passion for natural, toxin-free living, particularly when it comes to managing issues like anxiety and chronic Lyme disease (read about how she personally overcame Lyme disease here).