Eat more nuts. They might be high in calories, but they also contain healthy fats that help protect your heart, prevent weight gain, and control cholesterol.

For years, nuts have received a bad rap for being high in calories and fat, but nuts actually contain healthy, unsaturated fats, along with vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, protein and fiber. If you are going to eat them, just go a little nuts – a small handful of nuts per day is all you need.

There are 53-plus different variety of nuts to choose from, and some are healthier than others, in terms of their nutritional value and amount of fat they contain.

Check out the difference between some of the most popular nuts and see which ones you should scoop up for yourself.

If you’re not a milk-drinker, almonds are an excellent substitute. A single serving contains as much calcium needed for strong bones as a glass of milk. While raw almonds can be healthy, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that almonds be pasteurized to eliminate the risk of salmonella and other potential contaminants.

This popular nut is frequently added to salads, ice cream, and breads. It’s nutrient-dense and provides protective health benefits. In fact, a study published in the journal Nutrients, found that walnuts may help prevent heart disease, gallstones, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, certain types of cancer, and inflammation. Studies also show that walnuts can improve brain function, and may lower the risk of age-related memory loss.

Pecans are another heart-healthy nut packed with antioxidants that protect your heart, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition. Researchers found that eating pecans may lower bad cholesterol levels by as much as 33 percent.

Brazil Nuts
These south-of-the-border nuts don’t get as much attention as almonds, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, and cashews, but Brazil nuts are rich in protein and high in heart-healthy nutrients like fiber, magnesium, copper, niacin, and selenium, which is important for preventing breast cancer.

Lastly, follow some healthy guidelines as you shop for nuts:

  • Limit nuts highest in fat, like macadamia, pine nuts, and hazel nuts
  • Unsalted is always best for your health and your blood pressure
  • To eat more nuts, try trail mix, add nuts to salad, smoothies, incorporate in recipes for baked goods, and even sprinkle them into your favorite pasta dish

The next time you’re hungry for a snack, skip the candy bar and grab a handful of nuts. You’ll be healthier and feel better.