Nature provides us with an abundance of tools to augment our health and improve our quality of life. Among them are the gift of nuts and oils. Both are rich in healthy fats and a variety of nutrients, and because they are mostly plant-derived, they are easily incorporated in a variety of diets.

We all know that nuts are a healthier snacking option, and that oils have a variety of uses, but how exactly do these scrumptious additions to our grazing boards contribute to our overall health? Let’s explore some of the health benefits of nuts and oils, and consider some ways that we can implement them in our diets and unlock their full potential!


The nutritional profile of nuts is outstanding. Although they are small, they definitely pack a mighty punch in nutrition. Nuts tend to be richer in unsaturated fatty acids, which are known to be healthier than saturated fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids are very tightly packed, owing to the lack of any double bonds in their chemical structure. That is why foods rich in saturated fatty acids tend to be solid at room temperature (like butter). Unsaturated fatty acids on the other hand have one or more double bonds in their chemical structure, which allows them to be more loosely packed, and are thus liquid at room temperature (like olive oil). Saturated fatty acids have been associated with negative effects on health, such as high cholesterol, and inflammation– that’s how butter and cream, as delicious as they are, get their bad reputation! Unsaturated fatty acids are known to lower the risk for heart disease, and overall are associated with better health outcomes. 

This enrichment in unsaturated fatty acids is responsible for many of nuts’ health benefits, especially in lowering cholesterol. Specifically, nuts tend to be richer in oleic acid, linoleic acid [1], and other omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to their fatty acid profile, nuts like almonds, peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts, are also a good source of protein and fiber, as well as folate, vitamin B, vitamin E, antioxidants, and other essential nutrients, such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

Horizontal shot of a rustic wood table filled with a large assortment of nuts like pistachios, hazelnut, pine nut, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, cashew and walnuts. Some nuts are in brown bowls and others in glass jars. Predominant color is brown.
Nuts outweigh other foods in nutrient density. They are a good source of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and they might help reduce blood sugars and improve insulin sensitivity.

To put it in perspective, 100g of almonds have 728 mg of potassium while the same amount of bananas, which are most well-known for their potassium content, only have 358 mg of potassium [2]! Even more shockingly, 100g of pistachios have a whopping 1025 mg of potassium! Another example of nuts outweighing other foods in nutrient density is when it comes to calcium— 100g of almonds have 248 mg of calcium, while 100g of milk has 113g in comparison [2]. Additionally, while omega-3 fatty acids are known to be found in fish, nuts are also a valuable source of omega-3 fatty acids. Thus, nuts (and especially walnuts) can be a great source of omega-3s for those following plant-based diets.

While all nuts have a phenomenal nutritional profile, some nuts are better than others when it comes to diabetes management. Almonds in particular have been found to lower glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity, making it a valuable addition to the diet of those affected by Type-2 diabetes [3].  Additionally, almonds specifically are rich in magnesium (with just one ounce containing almost 20% of the recommended daily value), and thus a powerful supplement for the usually-magnesium-deficient diabetics [4,5] . Pistachios and peanuts have also been shown to reduce blood sugar levels with regular and reasonable consumption [6,7]. Although there is contradicting evidence as to whether nuts in general truly aid in diabetes management in a tangible way, the studies available do not generally indicate adverse effects of nut consumption, with scientific evidence ranging from little effect on glucose management to profound effects on insulin sensitivity. Increasing nut consumption can therefore be a beneficial supplementation to an already healthy diet. There certainly isn’t anything to lose!

Nuts are also very easy to incorporate into your diet. Instead of reaching for a bag of salty potato chips, brimming with unhealthy fats, reach for lightly salted almonds, pistachios, walnuts, cashews, or peanuts.  And next time you whip up a salad,  consider holding back on the croutons and opt for nuts to provide that satisfactory crunch! There are also countless ways to incorporate nuts into baked goods.  Nut flour and nut meal are readily available, so next time, instead of making regular waffles for breakfast, you can try almond flour waffles! Nut flours will provide a denser, more filling end product, and while they may not taste identical to regular flour, they are definitely a powerhouse of vitamins, nutrients, and healthy fats. 


Nut oils also tend to carry similar benefits as the nuts themselves, with less fiber content. Some oils are an even richer source of healthy fats than nuts. While almond oil and peanut oil are the better known nut oils and commonly used in cooking, health benefits from oil are not just limited to nut oils. Oils from olives, black seeds, avocados, sunflowers, and more, are also extremely beneficial. Depending on the source of the oil, oils can have a wide range of nutritional benefits, ranging from extremely healthy, to—sometimes—unhealthy. Let’s take a look at some of the most beneficial oils, and the astounding health benefits that they provide!

Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is one of the most well-known oils with an impressive nutritional profile. It is an essential part of the Mediterranean diet, and it’s a key player in many of the health benefits found therein. It is also easy to incorporate into one’s diet: a drizzle of olive oil over any food, especially vegetables and salads, leads to a more robust flavor!

The sheer amount of health benefits of olive oil is nearly dizzying. Olive oil is evidenced to have anti-tumor properties, lead to reduced risk of neurodegenerative disease, possess anti-inflammatory properties, prevent skin cancer, prevent and treat type 2 diabetes, and lower blood pressure [8].

So what makes olive oil so healthy? The main constituent of olive oil is simply—fatty acids! Olive oil is high in oleic acid and linoleic acid, as well as squalene, tocopherols, and antioxidants. The primary source of its beneficial effects is through its high unsaturated fatty acid content [8].

person sprinkling olive oil over a caprese salad.
Extra-virgin olive oil is rich in unsaturated fatty acids, which are known to lower heart disease risk.

Black Cumin Seed Oil

Black cumin seed oil—or simply, black seed oil— is less widely known, but has been around for centuries and has been considered by ancient civilizations as a panacea or a cure-all. It is sourced from black cumin seed, or Nigella sativa. Black seed is often considered to have religious sanctity, as it was mentioned in the Bible and in traditional Islamic texts, and in narrations from Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as the “cure for anything but death” [9].

Current scientific research is only just beginning to tap into the phenomenal potential of black seed oil, with findings that black seed oil has potent anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and cardioprotective properties, among many others [9, 10, 11, 12] . Additionally, there is evidence in support of black seed oil for treating asthma, diabetes, brain injury, eczema, IBS, and infertility [9, 10, 11, 12]

The star bioactive constituent in black seed oil is thymoquinone, which plays a key role in mediating the beneficial effects of black seed oil [10]. Like other oils, black seed oil is also enriched in fatty acids. It is also comprised of iron, folic acid, calcium, and other nutrients [10].

Because of its potent flavor, black seed oil is often taken as a supplement rather than incorporated in foods directly. The black cumin seed itself is often used in a variety of dishes—it can be used to top bread and toast, to sprinkle into salads, or yogurt, or to mix into curries, stews, and soups!

 Avocado Oil

Avocados have seen a rise in popularity over the years as a great source of healthy fats. Touted by celebrities, as well as served by high-end restaurants, avocado toast has become an extremely common breakfast option. The rise in fame of the avocado also brought about an interest in avocado oil, and this has become an increasingly popular choice of oil. Recent studies have highlighted similarities between avocado oil and olive oil, and have found that the fatty acid profile of avocado oil and olive oil are quite similar [13].

Similar to olive oil, avocado oil is also highly enriched in unsaturated fatty acids, like oleic acid and linoleic acid, as well as antioxidants [14].  Avocado oil has been shown to reduce cholesterol and improve eye health, as well as improve the appearance of skin and treat psoriasis [13, 14, 15, 16].

Because it has a mild flavor, it is so easy to use avocado oil in preparing food! It can be used to fry up an egg, drizzle your salad, and mix into sauces. It can also be used as an alternative to butter in baked goods, and even taken by the spoonful!

Glass bottle natural avocado oil, three fresh avocados on a white table. Top view
Avocado oil has been shown to reduce cholesterol, improve eye health, and improve signs of psoriasis.

Coconut Oil 

Coconut oil has long been touted as a superfood, however, there have been mixed findings as to coconut oil’s health benefits. Coconut oil, unlike olive, black seed, and avocado oil, tends to be solid at room temperature, indicative of its higher saturated fat content. While foods high in saturated fats tend to be associated with more negative health outcomes, coconut oil is unique in that it is high in lauric acid [17]. Lauric acid has shown benefits in anti-obesity, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory treatments  [17]. Coconut oil is also comprised of medium chain fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, and more [17]

Perhaps the most exciting finding about coconut oil thus far is that it may improve brain function! A recent study investigated the coconut oil enrichment in the diet of Alzheimer’s patients, and found that coconut oil led to improvements in memory and cognitive function [18]. Lauric acid may be responsible for this and other beneficial effects of coconut oil. Lauric acid allows coconut oil to be directly converted into energy, rather than fat, as it is processed through the body [19]

While coconut oil is high in saturated fats and can lead to higher cholesterol if consumed in excess, there is also potential for it to be used as a brain health supplement due to its higher medium chain fatty acid and lauric acid content. Thus, it can be consumed in moderation! Coconut oil can also be used similarly to butter in baking, as well as mixed into traditional thai dishes and stir fry dishes. It will impart a complex flavor to the dish and give it exotic hints of coconut! 

 Both nuts and healthy oils are a powerful addition to a healthy diet and are easily incorporated into breakfast, lunch, dinner, and as a snack on a daily basis! Their health benefits are often under-estimated, but with a few mindful dietary choices, it is easy to take advantage of them.