Nuts are a nutritious food source packed full of beneficial fats, protein, and fiber. Eaten in moderation, nuts can be a healthy addition to most diets.

When selecting nuts, there are two main options to choose from: raw and roasted. Both types contain a similar amount of proteins and carbohydrates. Raw nuts contain more fiber, while roasted nuts pack more calories and fat into a single gram.

This article outlines the benefits and potential drawbacks of raw versus roasted nuts. We also outline some important considerations when choosing between the two types.

a person chops walnuts on a chopping boardShare on Pinterest
ladi59/Getty Images

The primary difference between raw and roasted nuts is that roasted nuts are dry-heated through a process of oven-roasting or frying. Both methods aim to improve the taste and texture of the nuts.

The method of dry-heating is important when considering the fat content of different nuts. Roasting increases the fat and caloric content of most nuts, except for the pistachio nut. Frying increases the fatty acid content of almonds, but does not alter the fatty acid profile of pistachios or cashews.

Unlike roasted nuts, raw nuts are not cooked prior to packaging. However, the USDA requires that raw nuts are pasteurized to prevent Salmonella outbreaks.

The pasteurization process sanitizes the nuts using one of two methods: steaming or fumigation with the chemical propylene oxide (PPO). Most large nut processors use PPO to pasteurize their products. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2014, PPO is a possible cancer-causing agent, or “carcinogen.”

When choosing between raw and roasted nuts, a person should consider the benefits and drawbacks of each type. See some examples below.

Raw nuts

Pros of raw nuts

  • They preserve more of their naturally occurring nutrients, such as antioxidants and vitamin E.
  • They contain fewer calories and less fat content per gram.
  • They contain less sodium.
  • They contain fewer harmful free radicals.

Cons of raw nuts

  • They have less flavor, aroma, and crunch.
  • They may undergo exposure to PPO during pasteurization.
  • They contain natural compounds that reduce their digestibility, potentially causing bloating and stomach upset.
Was this helpful?

Roasted nuts

Pros of roasted nuts

  • They have an enhanced flavor and overall sensory experience.
  • They are easier to digest.
  • They bring a decreased risk of exposure to harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella and E. coli.

Cons of roasted nuts

  • They bring an increased risk of oxidation and free radical exposure during storage.
  • They can cause exposure to the carcinogen “acrylamide” when consumed in large quantities.
  • They contain trace amounts of trans fat accumulation.
  • They have a high sodium content.
  • When roasted with dry heat, they lose water content and increase in fat content.
Was this helpful?

The sodium content of roasted nuts is an important consideration for people who need to monitor their sodium intake. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of salt a day. Roasted nut packaging tends to include added salt. People can choose from low-sodium and no-sodium options.

People should also consider that nuts have a high fat content. Nuts are primarily high in polyunsaturated fat, which is a healthy type of fat. Still, eating too many nuts could increase the risk of weight gain. Because of this, people looking to reach or maintain a moderate weight should try to avoid eating more than a serving size of nuts each day.

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing between raw or roasted nuts. As long as a person eats nuts in moderation, both types can form part of a moderate, balanced diet.

Some of the potential risks associated with eating nuts are minimal and depend upon different factors, such as:

  • the roasting process
  • the pasteurization process
  • storage
  • salt content
  • added ingredients to enhance taste

A person should read product packaging carefully to determine which nuts are best suited to their dietary requirements and personal preferences.

Both raw and roasted nuts can be a healthy addition to most diets. Both types are a good source of beneficial nutrients such as Vitamin E, manganese, and omega-3 and 6 fatty acids.

When choosing between raw and roasted nuts, people should consider the potential benefits and drawbacks of each type, as well as their own dietary requirements. Raw nuts contain fewer calories and less sodium, but tend to be less digestible. Roasted nuts are more flavorful and digestible, but tend to have a higher salt content.

Both raw and roasted nuts have a high fat content. Because of this, people should eat nuts in moderation, especially if they are trying to reach or maintain a moderate weight.