Abstract Background: Nuts have been shown to have beneficial effects on human health due to the healthy fat content; however, the effect of antioxidants (i.e. polyphenols) in nuts have not been fully investigated. The present study aimed to assess the immediate effect of a polyphenol-rich meal (75% of energy from nuts: walnuts or almonds) and a polyphenol-free meal on plasma polyphenol content, antioxidant capacity and lipid peroxidation in healthy volunteers. Methods: Thirteen subjects participated in a randomized, crossover, intervention study. After an overnight fast, walnuts, almonds or a control meal in the form of smoothies were consumed by study subjects. Each subject participated on three occasions, 1 week apart, consuming one of the smoothies each time. Blood samples were obtained at fasting and then at intervals up to 3.5 h after consumption of the smoothies. Results: There was a significant increase in plasma polyphenol concentration following both nut meals, with peak concentrations being achieved at 90 min, and with a walnut meal having a more sustained higher concentration than an almond meal. The plasma total antioxidant capacity reached its highest point at 150 min postconsumption of the nut meals, and was higher after the almond compared to walnut meal. A gradual significant (P < 0.05) reduction in the susceptibility of plasma to lipid peroxidation was observed 90 min after ingestion of the nut meals. No changes were observed following consumption of control meal. Conclusions: Consumption of both nuts increased plasma polyphenol concentrations, increased the total antioxidant capacity and reduced plasma lipid peroxidation.