Many of us have been told to limit nut consumption because of the high fat content, but now a study from Harvard indicates that eating nuts may actually help people live longer. The study’s results, which were published in the November 21 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, stretched from the 1980s until 2010 and analyzed data from 76,000 women and 42,000 men.
Researchers found that those people who ate 1 ounce (28 grams) of nuts daily, seven days a week, were 20 percent less likely to die over a 30-year period compared with those who did not eat nuts. They were also 29 percent less likely to die of heart disease, 11 percent less likely to die from cancer, and 24 percent less likely to die from respiratory disease. Eating nuts was also connected to a reduced risk of death: people who ate nuts daily were 20 percent less likely to die than those who never ate nuts.
Nuts are nutritional powerhouses, rich in minerals, vitamins, protein, unsaturated fatty acids, and antioxidants. Past studies have shown that nuts improve blood vessel function, blood sugar control, and may help with losing weight – all factors that contribute to better cardiovascular health. They can reduce the risk of colon cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. That being said, not all nuts are created equally. It’s a good idea to avoid fried, salted, or sweetened nuts and stick with the plain, unsalted variety.
Almonds: These are an excellent source of antioxidant Vitamin E.
Walnuts: These contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids that may protect against irregular heart rhythms.
Pecans: They are higher in fat than other nuts, but contain important B-complex vitamins.
Macadamia nuts: They have lots of Vitamin E and selenium.
Pine nuts: They contain lutein, monosaturated fats, and vitamins A, C, and D.
Hazelnuts (filberts): These are rich in magnesium, which keeps the heart from overexerting itself, unsaturated fats, and vitamin E.
Peanuts: While they’re not officially nuts, their nutritional properties make them part of the nut family. These are rich in potassium, protein, and vitamin B.
Brazil nuts: While these contain mostly unsaturated fat, they do have the highest amount of saturated fat among the other nuts. They’re also provide selenium, magnesium, and copper.
Pistachios: These contain vitamin E, oleic avid, and many healthy minerals and antioxidants.
The study was paid for by the National Institutes of Health and the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation, but the Council had no say in how the study was done or how its results were eventually reported.
The study relied on self-reported information from the participants, and does not prove that nuts caused the participants to live longer. While the researchers did account for several factors that may impact a person's longevity, such as weight and vegetable consumption, there may be other confounding variables.
The good news is now you don’t need to avoid the holiday nut plate – just choose wisely.