Get cracking: how nuts can improve your health

Monday, December 9th, 2013. Filed under: Health & Fitness
Eat nuts, live longer, suggests mounting research. ©JKlingebiel/shutterstock.com

Eat nuts, live longer, suggests mounting research.
©JKlingebiel/shutterstock.com

(Relaxnews) – Few foods pack a nutritional bang for your buck quite like the humble nut. Here are a few good scientifically backed reasons to add nuts to your daily diet.

New research published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine involving nearly 119,000 subjects found that eating one serving of unsalted nuts daily could even extend your life. Nut eaters had fewer incidences of cancer and heart and respiratory disease, and eating nuts was “associated with a 20 percent reduction in total mortality, independent of other predictors of death.”

This summer, a longitudinal study of more than 7,000 people over 50 years old in Spain found that those who ate nuts more than three times a week had reduced risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease compared to non-nut eaters.

Both studies also showed that people who ate nuts also tended to have a lower body mass index and a smaller waist, and were also less likely to smoke and be more physically active, than those who rarely or never ate nuts. The Spanish study also found that nut eaters ate a better diet in general, with more vegetables, fruit, and fish.

Nuts are packed with a winning combination of plant sterols, monounsaturated fats and fiber, which can lower cholesterol levels. A 2009 Harvard University study concluded that eating walnuts resulted in a significant decrease in both total cholesterol and levels of LDL, or “bad cholesterol.”

Walnuts also get a nod for protecting a woman’s breasts from cancer, with a study published in 2011 in the journal Nutrition and Cancer finding that munching about two small handfuls of walnuts everyday may “significantly” curb a woman’s risks of the disease. Walnuts also have almost twice as many antioxidant polyphenols as almonds, peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, cashews, macadamias, Brazil nuts, and pecans, researchers said.

But almonds are a great snack for between-meal nibbles, with a recent study from Purdue University finding that a handful of almonds could fill you up and cut cravings throughout the day, without piling on the pounds.

How best to eat nuts? In small portions, since they are dense and high in calories, which can easily add up. Experts say aim for around 30-50 grams a day, which could be around 42 cashews or 10 Brazil nuts, for example. Also skip the salted and chocolate-covered varieties, since added salts and sugars can negate a nut’s healthful benefits.

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