Plant-forward: how nuts compare with other plant proteins for human and planetary health

Nut protein for human and planetary health

Fortunately, there is emerging evidence behind the idea that plant-forward eating is good for both human and planetary health. But as research and innovation continues to develop new forms of protein to meet the needs of plant-curious consumers, a new review of the literature highlights several ways in which nuts offer many positives compared to the other plant-based proteins on the market.

A recent literature review by Nuts for Life1 assessed the health effect of nut protein when compared to the other common plant protein foods including soy, legumes and grains. This review showed that nuts have certain advantages over other plant protein foods in terms of their total protein content, as well as  other  nutritional advantages.

Plant proteins are health supportive

The recent Nuts for Life literature review confirmed that there is good evidence that plant proteins support human health. It showed that an increased intake of plant-based protein (including nuts) is associated with improved health outcomes in three key areas:

Exactly how and why plant proteins bring about these positive health outcomes is currently unclear, however it could be due to the presence of certain types of amino acids (protein building blocks) and their combined effects. When compared with animal protein sources, plant protein sources are higher in arginine and cysteine, and lower in leucine and histidine, which may explain plant proteins’ beneficial and protective effects on health.

Macadamia muesli

How nuts stack up

Although plant proteins have many positive health associations, not all plant proteins are equal. The literature review showed that in terms of total protein intake, nuts generally have a higher total protein content, compared with other common plant protein sources. 

However, it wasn’t just total protein where nuts outperformed other forms of plant-based protein. They are higher (or equivalent) than their counterparts in a wide array of micro-nutrients essential for human health. Generally:

There is also emerging evidence that plant protein from nuts is more effective at reducing death from cardiovascular disease than other plant proteins, but more research is needed to be able to claim this with certainty.

Good for health, good for the planet

The Nuts for Life review stated that there is evidence that changing dietary patterns to feature more plant-based foods can have a significant effect on environmental health. The EAT-Lancet Commission, in its report on Food, Planet and Health2, concluded that the global intake of nuts is required to double from current consumption levels to meet recommendations for improved human and planetary health.

This suggests that nut protein is an important inclusion in manufactured products if they are going to support consumers in a shift towards a plant-based diet that can contribute to the health of the planet.

Nut snack bar

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