The Heart-Protective Benefits of Nuts

In 2003, buttressed by numerous studies demonstrating the heart-protective benefits of nuts, the FDA issued a formal statement that certain nuts—almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts (not a nut per se but a legume), pecans, pistachios, and walnuts—could slash your risk of heart disease. A recent study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine confirms that a serving of nuts a day not only cuts heart disease risk, but also reduces your risk of death by any cause!

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Researchers from Harvard Medical School, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital analyzed 30 years of data and 118,000 men and women. Results indicated that a one-ounce serving of nuts per day lowered heart disease risk by nearly 30%, cancer risk by 10%, and diabetes and lung disease risk by 20%. Over the course of the 30-year study, those who ate nuts every day were 20% less likely to die of any cause.

While volunteers who consumed nuts tended to live longer regardless of whether they exercised, ate their fruits and veggies, or were overweight, researchers did note that those who ate nuts daily tended to be healthier overall. While researchers used statistical methods to remove other factors, it’s difficult to isolate just one lifestyle component.

Tree Nuts’ Heart Healthy Benefits

Tree nuts like walnuts, pistachios, almonds, cashews, and pecans have proven heart healthy benefits. The plant proteins and plant sterols that make up tree nuts have been shown to naturally lower cholesterol, especially combined with a healthy diet. A Loma University meta-analysis made up of 25 studies found that men and women who ate two ounces of nuts daily reduced their LDL (bad) cholesterol by 10 mg/DL.

Nuts are rich in heart healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats like omega-3, which has been proven to calm systemic inflammation and protect against irregular heart rhythms. Arginine, a featured substance in tree nuts, has demonstrated a relaxing effect on the blood vessels, as well as the ability to prevent clotting. Packed with fiber and vitamin E, tree nuts offer some tasty heart insurance!

Things to consider:

  • Nuts are high in calories and fats, so don’t go overboard. One to two ounces daily should do the trick!
  • Avoid candied nuts coated with sugar. These high-calorie concoctions negate tree nuts’ heart healthy benefits with dietary sugar and a subsequent spike in glucose.
  • Salted nuts are a-okay, as long as you aren’t battling high blood pressure. If your blood pressure is iffy, chomp on the unsalted version of your favorite nut.
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