Most nuts are among the desirable high potassium foods. They are high in potassium and low in sodium. They are packed with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. One of their favorable characteristics is that they are low in carbohydrates with a few exceptions, giving them a low glycemic index value. When added to a meal, they blunt the absorption of carbohydrates, reducing the glycemic index of the meal to prevent the 2 hour let-down of a high glycemic meal.
The protein content for most nuts is fair. Some, such as pecans, macadamias, coconut meat and chestnuts only have about 10% or less of their calories as protein. A few, such as almonds, cottonseeds, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, sunflower seeds, and black walnuts have more than 15% of calories from protein.
Fats, for the great majority of nuts, are the biggest source of calories. However, most of the fats (lipids) are heart favorable, being low in saturated fat. Some are higher in monounsaturated, some in polyunsaturated, and some balanced about equally between these two subtypes of lipids.
The only nut high in saturated fat is the coconut. Saturated fat comprises 95% of its fat content. It should be limited for those who have heart problems. Two others somewhat high in saturated fat are cashews and Brazil nuts.
Those that are highest in monounsaturated fats are macadamia nuts (>80% monounsaturated), pistachios, almonds, and pecans. This type fat is generally considered in between the undesirability of saturated fat and the desirability of polyunsaturated fats. Most consider it neutral. However, it forms a big part of the Mediterranean diet which has been associated with heart health.
The ones high in polyunsaturated fats are walnuts, sunflower seeds, butternut, cottonseed, and flaxseed. A few are higher in omega 6, but most have favorable omega 3 (not all omega 3 are favorable).
Nuts can be used in meals in a variety of ways. Raw they can be eaten as a snack, although when eaten by the handful, they can quickly provide too many calories. They can be diced or ground and put into salads, pureed or buttered to make a dip or be put on desserts, such as ice cream, cake, or pie as a topping. Or when whipped, they can be the dessert itself.