Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-684bc48f8b-4z9h4 Total loading time: 1.115 Render date: 2021-04-12T13:49:59.475Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": false, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true }

Nuts: source of energy and macronutrients

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 April 2007

Gemma Brufau
Nutrition and Food Science Department – CeRTA, University of Barcelona, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
Josep Boatella
Nutrition and Food Science Department – CeRTA, University of Barcelona, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
Magda Rafecas
Nutrition and Food Science Department – CeRTA, University of Barcelona, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
E-mail address:
Rights & Permissions[Opens in a new window]


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.

Review Article
Copyright © The Nutrition Society 2006


Adam-Perrot, A, Clifton, P & Brouns, F (2006) Low carbohydrate diets: nutritional and physiological aspects. Obes Rev 7 4958.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Albert, CM, Gaziano, JM, Willett, WC & Manson, JE (2002) Nut consumption and decreased risk of sudden cardiac death in the Physicians' Health Study. Arch Intern Med 162 13821387.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Barcelli, U, Glas-Greenwalt, P & Pollak, VE (1985) Enhancing effect of dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids on plasma fibrinolysis in normal subjects. Thromb Res 39, 307312.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Calbet, JA & MacLean, DA (2002) Plasma glucagon and insulin responses depend on the rate of appearance of amino acids after ingestion of different protein solutions in humans. J Nutr 132, 21742182.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Carroll, KK & Hamilton, RM (1975) Effects of dietary protein and carbohydrate on plasma cholesterol levels in relation to atherosclerosis. J Food Sci 40, 1823.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cooke, JP, Tsao, P, Singer, A, Wang, BY, Kosek, J & Drexler, H (1993) Anti-atherogenic effect of nuts: is the answer NO?. Arch Intern Med 153, 898899.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
de Lorgeril, M, Salen, P, Martin, JL, Monjaud, I, Delaye, J & Mamelle, N (1999) Mediterranean diet, traditional risk factors, and the rate of cardiovascular complications after myocardial infarction: final report of the Lyon Diet Heart Study. Circulation 99, 779785.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
de Lorgeril, M, Salen, P, Laporte, F, Boucher, F & de Leiris, J (2001) Potential use of nuts for the prevention and treatment of coronary heart disease: from natural to functional foods. Nutr. Metab Cardiovasc Dis 11, 362371.Google ScholarPubMed
Ellis, PR, Kendall, CW, Ren, Y, Parker, C, Pacy, JF, Waldron, KW & Jenkins, DJ (2004) Role of cell walls in the bioaccessibility of lipids in almond seeds. Am J Clin Nutr 80, 604613.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Faxon, DP, Fuster, V, Libby, P, et al. (2004) Atherosclerotic vascular disease conference: writing group III: pathophysiology. Circulation 109, 26172625.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Feldman, EB (2002) The scientific evidence for a beneficial health relationship between walnuts and coronary heart disease. J Nutr 132 suppl. 1, 5S, 1061S1102S.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Garcia-Lorda, P, Megias-Rangil, I & Salas-Salvado, J (2003) Nut consumption, body weight and insulin resistance. Eur J Clin Nutr 57, suppl. 1, S8S11.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Gornik, HL & Creager, MA (2004) Arginine and endothelial and vascular health. J Nutr 134, Suppl. 10, 2880S2887S.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Hubbard, R, Kosch, CL, Sanchez, A, Sabate, J, Berk, L & Shavlik, G (1989) Effect of dietary protein on serum insulin and glucagon levels in hyper- and normocholesterolemic men. Atherosclerosis 76, 5561.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Jones, PJ, Ridgen, JE, Phang, PT & Birmingham, CL (1992) Influence of dietary fat polyunsaturated to saturated ratio on energy substrate utilization in obesity. Metabolism 41, 396401.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kaminski, WE, Jendraschak, E, Kiefl, R & von Schacky, C (1993) Dietary omega-3 fatty acids lower levels of platelet-derived growth factor mRNA in human mononuclear cells. Blood 81, 18711879.Google ScholarPubMed
Kelly, J & Sabaté, J (2006) Nuts and coronary heart disease: an epidemiological perspective. Br J Nutr 96, suppl. 2, S61S67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Krajcovicova-Kudlackova, M, Babinska, K & Valachovicava, M (2005) Health benefits and risks of plant proteins. Bratisl Lek Listy 106, 231234.Google ScholarPubMed
Kris-Etherton, PM, Yu-Poth, S, Sabate, J, Ratcliffe, HE, Zhao, G & Etherton, TD (1999) Nuts and their bioactive constituents: effects on serum lipids and other factors that affect disease risk. Am J Clin Nutr 70, suppl., 504S511S.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kritchevsky, D (1990) Protein and atherosclerosis. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo) 36, suppl.S81S86.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kritchevsky, D, Tepper, SA, Czarnecki, SK, Klurdfeld, DM (1982) Atherogenity of animal and vegetable protein. Influence of the lysine to arginine ratio. Atherosclerosis 41, 429431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Layman, DK, Boileau, RA, Erickson, DJ, Painter, JEShiue, H, Sather, C & Christou, DD (2003) A reduced ratio of dietary carbohydrate to protein improves body composition and blood lipid profiles during weight loss in adult women. J Nutr 133, 411417.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Lemoine, E (1998) Guide des fruits du monde: les frutis de nos régions, les variétés exotiques. Lausanne: Delachaux et Niestle.Google Scholar
Luscombe, ND, Clifton, PM, Noakes, M, Parker, B & Wittert, G (2002) Effects of energy-restricted diets containing increased protein on weight loss, resting energy expenditure, and the thermic effect of feeding in type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 25, 652657.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Luscombe, ND, Clifton, PN, Noakes, M, Farnsworth, E & Wittert, G (2003) Effect of a high-protein, energy-restricted diet on weight loss and energy expenditure after weight stabilization in hyperinsulinemic subjects. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 27, 582590.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Marlett, JA, McBurrey, MI & Slavin, JLAmerican Dietetic Association (2002) Position of the american dietetic Association: health implications of dietary fiber. J Am Diet Assoc 102, 9931000.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Moncada, S & Higgs, A (1993) The L-arginine-nitric oxide pathway. N Engl J Med 329, 20022012.Google ScholarPubMed
Parcerisa, J, Boatella, J, Codony, R (1993) Influence of variety and geographical origin on the lipid fraction of hazelnuts (Corylus avellana L.) from Spain. Fatty acid composition. Food Chem 48, 411414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Parcerisa, J, Richardson, DG, Rafecas, M, Codony, R & Boatella, J (1998) Fatty acid, tocopherol and sterol content of some hazelnut varieties (Corylus avellana L.) harvested in Oregon (USA). J Chromatogr A 805, 259268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rajaram, S & Sabaté, J (2006) Nuts, body weight and insulin resistance. Br J Nutr suppl. 2, S79S86.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Rolls, BJ, Bell, EA, Castellanos, WH, Chow, M, Pelkman, CL & Thorwart, ML (1999) Energy density but not fat content of foods affected energy intake in lean and obese women. Am J Clin Nutr 69, 863871.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ros, E, Mataix, J (2006) Fatty acid composition of nuts – implications for cardiovascular health. Br J Nutr suppl. 2, S29S35.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Sabaté, J (1993) Does nut consumption protect against ischaemic Herat disease?. Eur J Clin Nutr suppl. 1, 47, S71S75.Google Scholar
Sabaté, J (1999) Nut consumption, vegetarian diets, ischemic heart disease risk, and all-cause mortality: evidence form epidemiologic studies. Am J Clin Nutr 70, suppl., 500S.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sabaté, J (2003) Nut consumption and body weight. Am J Clin Nutr 78, suppl., 647S650S.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Sanchez, A & Hubbard, RW (1991) Plasma amino acids and the insulin/glucagon ratio as an explanation for the dietary protein modulation of atherosclerosis. Med Hypotheses 36, 2732.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Sanchez, A, Hubbard, RW, Smit, E & Hilton, GF (1988) Testing a mechanisms of control in human cholesterol metabolism: relation of arginine and glycine to insulin and glucagon. Atherosclerosis 71, 8792.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Savage, GP (2001) Chemical composition of walnuts (Juglans regia L.) grown in New Zealand. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 56, 7582.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Shahar, E, Folsom, AR, Ku, KK (1993) Associations of fish intake and dietary n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids with a hypocoagulable profile: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. Arterioscler Thromb 13, 12051212.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Souci, SW, Fachmann, W & Kraut, H (2000) 6th ed.Food composition tables. Sttutgart: CRC Press.Google Scholar
Sugano, M, Ishiwaki, N, & Nakashima, K (1984) Dietary protein-dependent modification of serum cholesterol level in rat. Significance of the arginine/lysine ratio. Ann Nutr Metab 28, 192199.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 6
Total number of PDF views: 11094 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 12th April 2021. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Access Access

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Nuts: source of energy and macronutrients
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Nuts: source of energy and macronutrients
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Nuts: source of energy and macronutrients
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *