Safeguard Your Health with a Handful of Nuts

Nuts are a staple food for plant-based diets, and new research published in the journal BMC Medicine gives us one more reason to love nuts. According to the research, eating a handful of nuts daily can significantly cut your risk of mortality from many different life-threatening conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, neurodegenerative disease, kidney disease, cancers, and infectious diseases.

assorted nuts

One of the World’s Most Powerful Superfoods

We know from past research that nuts appear to help protect against coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer. A recent meta-analysis of 29 studies from across the globe suggests that nuts may help reduce your risk of mortality from a variety of diseases. Researchers from Imperial College London and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology validated the link between daily nut intake and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), total cancer cases, all-cause mortality rates, and mortality rates from diseases including respiratory disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, infectious diseases, and kidney disease.

The meta-analysis included 819,448 participants and documented 12,300 cases of coronary heart disease, 9,200 cases of stroke, 18,600 cases of CVD, and 18,400 cases of cancer in studies published up to July 19, 2016. Researchers studied the effects of peanuts, which are actually a legume, not a nut, as well as tree nuts (cashews, pine nuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, and walnuts).

The results confirmed the remarkable health benefits of nuts. Just 20 grams of nuts a day, about a handful, lowered the risk of:

  • All-cause mortality by 22%hands cupped and holding hazelnuts
  • Coronary heart disease by 30%
  • CDV by 21%
  • Cancers by 15%
  • Respiratory disease by 52%
  • Diabetes by nearly 40%
  • Infectious disease by 75%

Specifically, tree nuts reduced the risk of developing coronary heart disease, CVD, cancer, and mortality, while peanuts alone reduced the risk of stroke. However, peanuts showed no influence on reducing cancer risk.

Researchers set their recommendation at 20 grams of nuts per day. There was no apparent health benefit to eating less than 15 grams of nuts a day, and eating more than 20 grams of nuts a day didn’t show any increased benefit.

The researchers explain:

“Under the assumption that the observed associations are causal we estimated that approximately 4.4 million premature deaths in the regions covered, including North and South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and Western Pacific, may be attributable to a nut intake below 20 grams per day.”

Antioxidant Powerhouses

Nuts are packed with in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and polyunsaturated fats, and contain remarkably high levels of antioxidants. Did you know that one serving of walnuts contains more antioxidants than fruits and vegetables combined? Studies demonstrate that free-radical zapping walnuts and almonds help protect the fats in your cells from oxidation. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics revealed that when people consumed walnuts and almonds they benefitted from higher antioxidant concentrations and significantly less oxidative stress. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol decreased by 26-33% 2 to 8 hours after eating whole pecans.

Other health benefits of eating nuts on a daily basis include weight loss and management, and blood sugar and blood pressure regulation. So grab a handful today, or sprinkle your favorite nut on a salad or in your next stir-fry.