Nuts are nutritionally dense powerhouses. They’re loaded with essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that will aid your body in building muscle and staying slim.

The antioxidants in almonds help control blood sugar after meals, protect against diabetes and heart disease and raise levels of HDL cholesterol while lowering LDL. They’re also filled with monounsaturated fats that can reduce your risk of heart disease even more.

Eating almonds can also lead to more energy and stronger muscles. A handful of almonds has more protein than an egg, and contains energy-boosting manganese and copper, which limit the free radicals that can hinder mitochondria (the dynamos that power our cells).

Almonds are similarly good sources of riboflavin, or vitamin B2, which is an essential nutrient for producing oxygen-based energy in the body, says Nancy Clark, R.D., author of the Sports Nutrition Guidebook.

Almonds may even help you burn fat. You’ve probably heard that nuts are calorically dense, but eating a lot of anything is going to get your waistline growing, and there is “no research to back up that they are fattening,” Clark says. In fact, a 2003 study in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders showed that over- weight and obese people on a low-calorie, almond-enriched diet had a 56% greater reduction in body fat compared with those on a low-calorie, high-carb diet.

Clark suggests eating a handful of raw almonds once a day. Mix them with dried cranberries, chop them into a salad, or spoon some almond butter into your protein shake for an extra muscle-repairing boost.

Almond Info:

Calories: 271
Protein: 10g
Carbs: 10g
Fat: 23g

(Nutrition info per 1/3 cup) Source: USDA