Humans go nuts for nuts.
Perhaps the most versatile of foods, we use nuts in a range of dishes and even as a crunchy garnish to both desserts and healthy sides—from bowls of vanilla ice cream to fruity salads! Nuts can also be enjoyed as a sweet or savory snack all on their own. For example, you might nibble on a handful of salted peanuts at a baseball game during the summer months, but crave a honey-roasted variety in the wintertime.
No matter how you choose to eat them, nuts can be incorporated into your diet in a number of ways—as a semi-decorative embellishment to a meal or by themselves as a protein-packed pick-me-up are just two examples!
Nuts' ability to enhance a variety of dishes is not their only strength. Apart from the fact they're highly versatile, there are so many nut varieties to pick and choose from, and they all vary in both flavor and texture. From the common types, such as almonds and cashews, to the lesser-known, like baru and pili nuts, when it comes to selecting one that will best fit into your weekly meal prep, you've got options.
With so many to choose from, it's easy to get lost in the research of each nut's nutritional value. After speaking with a health professional, we determined the most unhealthy nut to snack on—as well as two runner-ups—and it may surprise you.
You've likely heard rumors that cashews have a detrimentally high fat content (they sit right around 12 grams of total fat per 1-ounce serving), but they didn't even make our expert's list of the top three worst nuts. Turns out, as we've previously reported, cashews are actually a pretty stellar option.
Victoria Glass, M.D., of the Farr Institute, explains that pine nuts and macadamia nuts are the two nuts to limit your consumption of, adding that they're the second and third unhealthiest nut options out there, respectively.
"As much as pine nuts have nutritional value, they cause Pine Nut Syndrome which leaves a bitter and metallic taste in your mouth for months," she says. When it comes to macadamia nuts, her one complaint is that "their fat and calorie counts are very high."
While Glass advises nut-lovers to watch their portion control on both pine and macadamia nuts, she doesn't consider either the worst nut. The number one worst nut to snack on, according to her, is also one of the most common: peanuts.
"Peanuts are exposed to aflatoxin, which is a fungus associated with liver cancer," she adds. For context, aflatoxin is a toxic byproduct of a type of mold that falls under the Aspergillus species umbrella. However, as the National Peanut Board points out, peanuts may be more likely to be exposed to the toxin when produced in parts of Africa and Asia—not the U.S.
Aside from the potential threat peanuts may pose to your liver health, the nut can cause discomfort if not be fatal for some if consumed. As anyone who struggles with any type of peanut aversion is likely aware, the nut "may also cause severe allergic reactions to some people as well," Glass explains.
So, while peanuts are packed with protein and, compared to other snacks, are a relatively healthy option, there are a few things to be mindful of as you peruse the nut aisle.
Now, be sure to check out The #1 Best Nut to Eat to Reduce Inflammation, Says Dietitian. Then, don't forget to sign up for our newsletter!