Eat These 8 High-Protein Nuts For Balanced Blood Sugar & More Energy
Ray Bass is the associate movement and wellness editor at mindbodygreen and a NASM-Certified Personal Trainer. She holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Pennsylvania, with honors in nonfiction.
Although nuts are primarily made up of fats (mostly monounsaturated, omega-3, and omega-6), they also have a sufficient amount of protein, which is great news for anyone looking to diversify their protein profile (looking at you, wannabe plant-based eaters).
Here are the highest protein nuts, ranked in order of lowest to highest:
Pecans come in at 2.6 grams of protein per ounce. While 2.6 grams of protein is nothing to write home about, pecans have the highest phytochemical concentration of flavonoids of all tree nuts2, and that has to count for something. And if you're going to eat pecans anyway, isn't it nice to know there's at least a little protein?
Pili nuts are grown in the Philippines, where they've been a popular source of fat and protein for years. More recently they've gained popularity among the keto, high-fat, and low-carb crowds due to their ultra-low-carb count (they have just 1 gram of carbohydrates per ounce). If you're tired of eating the same nuts day after day, pili nuts are a tasty and healthy way to switch it up. According to mbg Collective member Jess Cording, R.D., an ounce of pili nuts has about 200 calories and 22 grams of fat—11 grams of monounsaturated fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, and 3 grams of polyunsaturated fat. They're also high in magnesium, which we know most of us are deficient in.
Hazelnuts aren't usually enjoyed plain, but they're another nutrient-dense nut—high in magnesium, calcium, and vitamins B and E. Also, research has linked hazelnut consumption to decreased cardiovascular disease events3 and declared them a brain-protective food4. Sure, 3.8 grams isn't a ton of protein, but hey, at least you can fall back on this number the next time you eat Nutella.
Selenium, who? If you're looking for protein, these often-left-hanging-in-mixed-nut-bowls nuts pack a decent amount of it. An ounce of Brazil nuts is six to eight nuts, but you shouldn't eat more than one to three Brazil nuts per day5—you can get selenosis from eating too much selenium6.
Studies have shown walnut consumption promotes heart health7 and gut health, and according to Vincent Pedre, M.D., they are the best nut to fight inflammation. Sure, walnuts don't contain the most protein, but still, 4 grams is nothing to shake off (and protein adds up, as they say).
Coming in hot at No. 3 is the pistachio. This anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-filled8 nut has been deemed the healthiest nut by R.D.s and delivers almost 6 grams of protein per ounce. Even better, 1 ounce of unshelled pistachios is about a sizable 49 nuts—that's over six times as many nuts as you'd get in a serving of Brazil nuts. Plus, shelling pistachios is like a free guided meditation.
Cashews boast an impressive 5.1 grams of protein, which is 1 gram shy of having the same protein content as an egg. This soft nut can be blended easily into a smoothie or even made into pancakes, but there's also been a surge in cashew-based nondairy products that you can either buy or make yourself (cashew cheese dip, anyone?).
Known for their impressive ability to transform into milk (now less impressive thanks to the nut milk boom), almonds are full of vitamin E, monounsaturated fats, fiber, and, of course, protein. Crunchy, creamy, and, when salted, satisfying, they're one of the few safe food choices you can buy at airports and an easy way to add a good dose of protein to your diet—which you'll see isn't the case for all nuts. Advantage, almonds.
If you've made it this far, good on you. You now know which nuts will satisfy your protein quota and which you should eat for other reasons. There's a long way to fall from the top to the bottom of this list, but now you know that most (if not all) nuts have some level of protein in addition to their already admirable list of benefits. For more protein, choose almonds, and if you hate nuts altogether, choose something else.
Ray Bass is the associate movement and wellness editor at mindbodygreen and a NASM-Certified Personal Trainer. She holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Pennsylvania, with honors in nonfiction. A runner, yogi, boxer, and cycling devotee, Bass searches for the hardest workouts in New York (and the best ways to recover from them). She's debunked myths about protein, posture, and the plant-based diet, and has covered everything from the best yoga poses for chronic pain to the future of fitness, recovery, and America's obsession with the Whole30 diet.