Nuts are a favorite food among many people, including those who follow low-carb, plant-based, or Mediterranean diets. Are nuts high in protein? Although they are nutritious, their protein content isn’t that impressive because they are high in fat and total calories.
The good news is, you can still enjoy nuts on a low-carb diet — if you stick to modest portions. Which nuts are highest in protein? Read on to find out how different nuts rank on the protein scale.
The image below shows the protein percentages for different nuts.
More high-protein guides
Protein in nuts
Nuts are dried seeds that have hard, inedible shells. Although peanuts are technically legumes, they are often grouped with tree nuts because they have similar nutrition profiles, texture, and taste.
Nuts contain protein, fiber, fat (mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids), vitamin E, magnesium, and other vitamins and minerals.
How much protein do nuts provide? You’ll get about 2 to 7 grams of protein per ounce (30 grams) — approximately one small handful — depending on the type of nut.
However, the protein percentage of all nuts is low. This means that they don’t provide much protein per calorie.
The protein percentage is the portion of a food’s calories, excluding fiber, that come from protein.
Nuts contain protein, carbs, and fat. But they have far more fat than protein or carbs. Because most of the calories in nuts come from fat, their protein percentages are very low.
Additionally, unlike animal foods and soy, nuts are low in some of the essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) you need to get from food every day. They do provide different essential amino acids that are limited in other plants, which can be beneficial for people who eat vegan or vegetarian diets.
So while nuts can supply your body with some protein, you’ll get far more protein for fewer calories by eating foods from our meat, dairy, and plant-based protein food guides. Several high-protein snacks are also better options than nuts for maximizing protein per calorie.
How much protein do you need? Aim to eat at least 100 grams of protein per day if you’re a woman and 140 grams if you’re a man of average height and build. Eat more if you’re a man taller than 6 feet (183 cm) or a woman taller than 5 feet 6 inches (168 cm) or if you’re very physically active. Eat less if you’re shorter or have a petite frame.
In this guide, we provide both the protein percentages and gram amounts per serving for nuts. These are based on average values. The protein percentages and gram amounts can vary slightly depending on growing conditions, nut species, and other factors.
Avoid eating too many nuts
While it’s fine to enjoy nuts in small amounts, it isn’t a good idea to eat too many.
First, you’ll get a lot of non-protein calories, mainly from fat. Although fat makes food taste better, eating too much can dilute the amount of protein in your diet. Strong research suggests that eating high-protein foods can help you feel full and satisfied, lose fat, and maintain muscle.
By filling up on nuts and other foods that contain mostly fat and relatively little protein, you’re likely to take in more calories than needed to lose or maintain your weight.
Another reason to be careful with nuts is that they’re extremely easy to overconsume — especially when they’re eaten straight from a container or bag. Once you start eating them, it can be tough to stop.
How can you avoid overdoing nuts? Portion out about an ounce (30 grams) of nuts or one to two tablespoons of peanut butter and then put the container or jar away. Eat nuts as a snack, sprinkle chopped nuts on a salad, or add them to recipes.
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The best high-protein nuts
According to several studies, including nuts in your diet may help reduce heart disease risk factors.
In addition to providing potential health benefits, nuts are also a convenient choice since they’re portable and shelf-stable. So, unless you have an allergy or sensitivity to nuts, there is no reason to give them up. Just keep portions small.
Below are the protein percentages and grams of protein, fiber, and net carbs per ounce (30 grams) of nuts, unless otherwise noted:
Note: If you eat a strict keto or very low-carb diet, it may be best to pay more attention to the net carb content of nuts than the protein percentage.
Protein percentage: 18%
7.3 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of fiber, and 2.5 grams of net carbs per serving (approximately 1/4 cup or 35 peanuts, or 1.75 tablespoons of peanut butter)
Protein percentage: 15%
6.2 grams of protein, 3.5 grams of fiber, and 2.5 grams of net carbs per serving (approximately 1/4 cup or 22 almonds, or 1.75 tablespoons of almond butter)
Protein percentage: 15%
5.7 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and 4.5 grams of net carbs per serving (approximately 1/4 cup or 49 pistachios)
Protein percentage: 12%
5 grams of protein, 1 gram of fiber, and 7.5 grams of net carbs per serving (approximately 20 cashews)
Protein percentage: 10%
4.2 grams of protein, 2.8 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of net carbs per serving (approximately 20 hazelnuts)
Protein percentage: 9%
4.3 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of net carbs per serving (approximately 15 walnut halves)
- Brazil nuts
Protein percentage: 9%
2.7 grams of protein, 1 gram of fiber, and 0.7 grams of net carbs per serving (approximately four Brazil nuts). Note: Limit intake to a maximum of four Brazil nuts in any one day due to their high selenium content. Avoid eating more than two Brazil nuts per day on a regular basis.
- Pine nuts
Protein percentage: 8%
3.9 grams of protein, 1 gram of fiber, and 2.5 grams of net carbs per serving (approximately one-quarter cup of pine nuts)
Protein percentage: 5%
2.6 grams of protein, 2.7 grams of fiber, and 1 gram of net carbs per serving (approximately 19 pecan halves)
- Macadamia nuts
Protein percentage: 4%
2.2 grams of protein, 2.4 grams of fiber, and 1.5 grams of net carbs per serving (approximately 10 to 12 macadamia nuts)
While nuts may not be the best protein source, choosing types with higher protein percentages and lower net carb content can be a tasty addition to any diet. Just remember to limit portion sizes and ensure you get enough protein from other sources such as meat, seafood, eggs, beans, and soy.