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The least expensive nuts and seeds for heart health

The least expensive nuts and seeds for heart health

Did you know that eating nuts every day can lower your LDL cholesterol by 5-7%, triglycerides by 5-10%, and risk of major cardiovascular events by 28%?

cashews in a bowl

Photo by Jenn Kosar on Unsplash

But with the cost of food these days, can a person afford that? A bag of pine nuts at our local Costco is now going for $45.99!

So I took a look at the cost of nuts, as well as seeds, which have similar nutrition. Let’s see which ones are easiest on the budget.

Local price comparison

These are in-store prices from a Costco in Calgary, Canada and online prices from a large chain store, Real Canadian Superstore.

I checked them all the week of January 30, 2023, disregarding any sales. I looked for the least expensive (by unit cost) plain or salted option, either whole or pieces.

Nuts in your neck of the woods might be priced differently, but relatively speaking it should be similar. The chart is in order of price at Costco, which was usually the lowest. (Click to enlarge.)

chart of nut and seed prices at Superstore and Costco

Other factors to consider

When making any food purchase, of course, there are many considerations above and beyond price, from taste to health impacts, allergies and intolerances, convenience, ethics, and sustainability.

But in the name of keeping this post simple, we’ll focus on price, other than two key thoughts about nuts, seeds, and health:

  • Nuts and seeds are a welcome part of a heart-healthy diet. Don’t let the fat and/or calories put you off. They’re nutrient-dense little nuggets that can help curb your appetite.
  • There isn’t one “healthiest” nut (or seed).  They’re all rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fats, antioxidants, and a variety of other nutrients. Some stand out for one reason or another — walnuts and chia seeds for omega-3, for example — so in terms of health, just enjoy a variety of your favourites.

Seven tips for enjoying nuts and seeds without breaking the bank

So back to dollars and cents. Here are some of my key findings:

  1. Buy the largest package size that makes sense for you. The unit price usually goes down substantially as the package size goes up.

  2. Store nuts and seeds in the freezer or fridge. They stay fresh for a few months at room temperature, but you don’t know when they were harvested, and rancid nuts taste awful. Moving them to the fridge extends shelf life to about a year and the freezer can keep them fresh for two or more years.

  3. Overall, the least expensive retailer in my survey was Costco. The average unit cost of nuts and seeds was 25% more at Superstore. Pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, and shelled pistachios were more than 70% more expensive at Superstore, so if you like those, it may be worth a trip to Costco.

  4. If cost is an issue for you, you don’t need to buy organic. We don’t have consistent evidence to support nutritional benefits of organic plant foods compared to conventionally grown plants.

  5. Pay attention to the unit cost. The average I found at Superstore was $2.03 per 100g at Costco, and $2.54 at Superstore, for comparison. Between sales, bulk bins, and different brands, there was a great deal of variability.

  6. Enjoy peanuts and sunflower seeds if you like them. I think people tend to look down on them, but peanuts have been linked to similar heart and longevity benefits as pricer nuts.  Sunflower seeds are a good source of antioxidants like vitamin E and selenium. They’re a heart health bargain.

  7. If you have a Costco membership, add pumpkin seeds to your shopping list. At least here in Calgary, they’re one of the least expensive ($1.06 per 100g) and a better source of protein than most nuts. Plus they’re tasty on oatmeal, salads, or just for a snack.

So would this change your eating habits?

For us, there has been a shift since I did this analysis. My husband is snacking more on peanuts, which he likes as much as cashews. We’re using more sunflower and pumpkin seeds in baked oats, granola and trail mixes.

chia pudding with berries on top

Photo by Ash Edmonds on Unsplash

And I was surprised to see the chia seeds were so (relatively) affordable! I always thought they were kind of a luxury item. Since they’re also a good source of cholesterol-lowering, blood sugar-stabilizing soluble fibre, I use them more now than ever (in this French Toast Berry Cobbler, for example).

While cost certainly isn’t the only factor, it does matter to most of us when it comes to healthy eating.

What about you? Will any of this change your eating habits? Do you have any other strategies for stretching your food budget when it comes to nuts and seeds?

Share in the Sweet Spot Facebook group! I always welcome your insights.

p.s. If the cost of food is a priority for you, I’ve done a similar survey for fruit and vegetables here.

Note: This post wasn’t sponsored by anyone. None of my posts are sponsored.