Nuts are packed with NUTrients. There is overwhelming evidence that consuming them on a regular basis can significantly improve your health and even increase your longevity.
No- we’re not nuts. A paper published recently in the International Journal of Epidemiology confirms that “men and women who eat at least 10 grams of nuts or peanuts per day have a lower mortality rate from several major causes of death than those who don’t consume nuts or peanuts.”
The decreased risk of death was strongest for respiratory disease, neurodegenerative disease and diabetes, followed by cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
If we’re counting calories.. it is true that nuts are pretty high on the spectrum. But as we have become well aware, not all calories are created equal.
Nuts are health-promoting powerhouses because biologically speaking, they are fruits and can generate a new plant when raw. But what we like to sprinkle with salt and snack on are the fruits’ seeds. So in order for their seedling to thrive, they must pack in loads of life-supporting compounds like protein, fiber, plant sterols, and micronutrients such as copper and magnesium.
But aren’t they really fattening? Yes, this is true too… about 80% of their calories comes from fat.
The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide explains that the majority of this fat is the “good” monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, not the saturated kind that is found in meat and dairy products, or the trans fat variety that has gotten some pretty terrible press.
This good fat has been found to lower the LDL, low-density lipoprotein, or “bad cholesterol” in your blood. Higher levels of LDL is one of the major precursors to heart disease.
Take this to heart- nuts can lower your risk of blood clots and improve the health of the lining of your arteries. They are full of Omega-3 Fatty Acids that can prevent heart attacks as they monitor heart rhythms. Their content of Vitamin E prevents plaque build-up in your arteries, their L-arginine is an amino acid that works on the health of your artery walls, and the plant sterols lower cholesterol.
Nuts are are an awesome brain food as well– Vitamin E can prevent cognitive decline over time (almonds have a very high content). High in B-vitamin folate, peanuts can especially improve neural health and lower your risk of a decrease in cognitive function as you age. Yes, technically peanuts are legumes, but they’re still part of the family. Walnuts have even been found to improve working memory, problem-solving, and motor function! The Omega-3s slow down your brain’s aging process, too.
The list goes on… their high fiber content can improve blood sugar levels, as nuts have been found to prevent diabetes. Studies have found that individuals who consume nuts regularly are on average leaner than those who don’t treat themselves. One reason may be that they are a high-satiety snack- they keep you fuller so you are less hungry later on.
But before you indulge, keep in mind that coating them with lots of sugar or salt is going to do your body more harm than good. There so many flavored nut mixes and granolas out there- beware! Reach for unsalted, raw varieties and consume in moderation- they are still very calorically dense.
Check out this helpful infographic more specific information relating to the different varieties of nuts. Studies have found that fortunately, we don’t have to just pick one- mixed varieties provide the greatest benefits overall. So there, go nuts!
Illustration at the top by Lou Beach for the New York Times.