Julie Corliss

Eating nuts linked to healthier, longer life

Move over, apples: A handful of nuts a day keeps the doctor away—and might help you live longer, according to new results from two long-running Harvard studies.

“We found that people who ate nuts every day lived longer, healthier lives than people who didn’t eat nuts,” said study co-author Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. The report, in tomorrow’s New England Journal of Medicine, showed that daily nut-eaters were less likely to die of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease. Overall, the daily nut-eaters were 20% less likely to have died during the course of the study than those who avoided nuts. (Peanuts, which are actually legumes, counted as nuts in this study).

The findings were gleaned from nearly 120,000 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Physician’s Health Study. All answered questions about their diets at the beginning of the studies in the 1980s and then every two to four years during 30 years of follow-up. The researchers classified the participants into six categories that ranged from never eating nuts to eating them seven or more times per week. The more often people ate nuts, the lower their risk of premature death.

The findings echo those of earlier studies, according to Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton, professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, who highlighted nut research at this week’s American Heart Association meeting in Dallas, Texas. “Eating nuts lowers LDL (“bad” cholesterol), raises HDL (“good” cholesterol) and also lowers blood pressure and blood pressure responses to stress,” said Dr. Kris-Etherton. Her research also shows that nut consumption helps boost a process called reverse cholesterol transport, by which HDL particles in the blood sweep away fatty plaque from clogged arteries. The Harvard researchers pointed out that the composition of nuts—fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals—may provide “cardioprotective, anticarcinogenic, antiinflammatory, and antioxidant properties.”

Worried that eating nuts might make you fat, since they’re high in fat? In fact, frequent nut eaters were less likely to gain weigh in this and other studies. “Nuts are high in protein and fiber, which delays absorption and decreases hunger,” said Dr. Hu, adding that nuts contain mostly unsaturated healthy fats.

No “perfect” nut

Are certain nuts better than others? “Everybody is searching for the perfect nut,” says Dr. Kris-Etherton. But the health benefits hold true for a variety of nuts, including walnuts, almonds, peanuts, and pistachios, so eat your favorite. Or, as Kris-Etherton recommends, try mixed nuts—and be sure to choose unsalted over salted. She offered the following tips for making nuts part of your regular diet:

  • spread nut butter on your morning toast instead of butter or cream cheese
  • sprinkle chopped nuts on cereal or yogurt
  • toss nuts into a salad or stir-fry
  • top fruit or crackers with nut butter
  • try nut-encrusted fish or chicken, such as pecan-encrusted trout

Comments:

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  2. nutsheller

    This is really informative post and I personally would like to appreciate the efforts. We are also dealing in same industry hence found this informative to add in our process also. Once again thanks for your post.

  3. Smith Taylor

    Wow you are amazing with words. This sounds like a healthy snack. So tasty and healthy!

  4. dervelo

    Are peanuts really nuts and are they bad for your blood pressure?

  5. David Carbone

    what about the level of omega 6 fats and phytates in nuts?

  6. Manish Kataria

    Heave heard that cashews are not good for heart. Only almonds are the healthy nuts. Is it correct ?

  7. U-RAAW!

    Very interesting study… really does make you wonder how much the nuts themselves are responsible for the results vs. the lifestyle of the average nut eater.

    There is no question that most people that take the effort to eat nuts probably live a much healthier life than the average individual who does not consume nuts.

  8. PH

    Excellent article! And all the more reason why we must do all we can to fight the collapse of honeybee colonies. For without their polination, there would be no almonds, and many other nuts will be affected as well. Don’t eat honey — that’s the bees’ food, and giving up honey is a small price to pay to keep almonds around!

  9. Jill Whalen

    My grandmother lived to 103 and ate a handful of peanuts almost every day, so I definitely believe this!

  10. Kathleen

    Read in Prevention magazine recently that Cashews are the one nut that raises LDL. They are my favorite nut. Any validity to this study?

  11. Maja A. Paulsen

    The list about positive effect that nuts has over our body is really long.They can boost your immune system thanks to high vitamin E, vitamin B and magnesium content,they are also considered as a brain food — helping to prevent cognitive decline that happens with age.
    According to research from Dr. David Bleich, head of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark published, it is found that people who added nuts to their diets and who replaced other foods with nuts lost more weight (an average 1.4 pounds more) and reduced their waist sizes by more than half an inch.
    Nuts, like almonds, hazel nuts, peanuts, Brazil nuts, walnuts and cashews can all play a role in reducing the risk of heart disease,and much more.They can be consumed without limit like healthy snack as most people consume them or on any other way.

  12. Matt Donnelly

    I Eat nuts almonds, peanuts, walnuts, cashews and All kinds almost every meal. Will be 89 on Dec 3, 2013, love them and they love me.
    Eat them.
    Matt

  13. Buzz Hunt

    I can’t help but wonder if there is a negative impact on the fiber content of nuts when they are processed into butters, and by extension, if eating raw nuts rather than butters makes a significant difference in the benefits.

    I also wonder if sunflower seeds qualify as nuts. I sprinkle them on my salads.

    I would appreciate any response or referral to a knowledgeable source.

    For what it is worth, I have only purchased peanut butter that has to be stirred when opened for the last 40 years. Nothing other than peanuts and salt contained so the oils separate before purchase. The ritual of stirring has always been part of engagement and delight of eating this fabulous food.

  14. Ann M.

    Excellent blog post! And nuts also make great snack food and you can sprinkle them in instead of cheese in pasta, to substitute healthy unsaturated fats for unhealthy saturated fats. Maybe even sprinkle chopped nuts into the “stuffing” in next week’s turkey.

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