a1 Nutrition and Food Science Department – CeRTA, University of Barcelona, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
On the basis of the high fat content of nuts, they are traditionally considered as foods that provide a high amount of energy. However, epidemiologic and clinical observations do not indicate an association between nut intake and increased BMI. There is a notorious variability in macronutrient composition among nuts, although they have some consistent patterns. Nuts contain all major macronutrients: protein, carbohydrate, and fat. The total protein content is relatively high, which makes them a good source of plant protein (especially for vegetarians). Although nuts contain low amounts of some essential amino acids, this is not a nutritional concern due to the complement of protein. In addition, nuts have a low lysine:arginine ratio, which is inversely associated with the risk of developing hypercholesterolemia and atherosclerosis. Carbohydrates are the second highest macronutrient in nuts in terms of total calories provided. The fat fraction is characterized by a high amount of unsaturated fatty acids and a low content of saturated fatty acids. In conclusion, the high content in unsaturated fatty acids, the low lysine:arginine ratio, and the presence of other bioactive molecules (such as fibre, phytosterols, vitamin and other antioxidants, and minerals) make the addition of nuts to healthy diets a useful tool for the prevention of cardiovascular heart diseases.