All bodybuilders know a key factor in building muscle mass is protein. There are a number of great natural protein sources like chicken, beans, eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and oats. But when you need a quick and easy protein boost on-the-go, nuts are an excellent option. With so many different nuts on the market, how do you choose? Are all nuts created equal? Should you always choose the highest protein per serving? Is fat good or bad? Are more calories a good trade-off for more flavor?

When choosing a nut to snack on, there are at least 5 that are excellent choices: almonds, peanuts (technically a legume), walnuts, cashews, and brazil nuts (yes, those large nuts that most people ignore in the cans of mixed nuts). Of course, you want to avoid things like barbeque flavored, honey roasted and chocolate coated. As good as all of that sounds, added sugars, flavors and salt just add unnecessary carbs and calories and sodium. To see how these additives can derail your fitness goals, check out this article: eat this not – the worst nuts for weight loss. 

Most natural state nuts are very similar in their nutritional makeup. Like the 5 healthy nuts mentioned, there are 5 key nutrients to consider: calories, protein, carbohydrates, fat, and fiber. Depending on your needs, you can determine if you want the maximum protein, the fewest calories, the highest fiber, etc. You can check out how a one-ounce serving of each of these nuts compares here.  

Although most nuts are encouraged in a healthy diet, there are a couple that are slightly less desirable in a fit-friendly lifestyle. Macadamia nuts and pecans are higher in calories and fat and lower in protein than the 5 noted above. Like anything, portion control is important. Even good nuts can be detrimental if you consume too many.

So if you are solely looking for the highest protein punch per ounce, the peanut is your go-to nut. But if you are particularly concerned with calories, fat, fiber and carbohydrates, you will need to determine which nut fits your individual goals the best. The bottom line is that no matter which nut you choose, as long as you exercise good portion control and stick to Mother Nature’s natural product, your body will thank you.