Nuts are great. There, we said it.
Not only are they a far better alternative to biscuits when you get your mid-morning hunger pangs, but they also work wonders for health.
Don’t believe us? Here are seven scientifically-backed benefits to eating them regularly.
They could help you live longer.
Eating a handful of nuts a day keeps the doctor away - and might help you live longer, according to 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 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).
They could positively impact cholesterol.
Initial findings from the Walnuts and Healthy Aging (WAHA) study indicate that daily walnut consumption positively impacts blood cholesterol levels without making people gain weight.
“Given walnuts are a high-energy food, a prevailing concern has been that their long term consumption might be associated with weight gain,” said Dr Emilio Ros, director of the Lipid Clinic, Endocrinology & Nutrition Service at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona.
“The preliminary results of the WAHA study demonstrate that daily consumption of walnuts for one year by a sizeable cohort of ageing free-living persons has no adverse effects on body weight.
“They also show that the well-known cholesterol-lowering effect of walnut diets works equally well in the elderly and is maintained in the long term.
“Acquiring the good fats and other nutrients from walnuts while keeping adiposity at bay and reducing blood cholesterol levels are important to overall nutritional well-being of ageing adults. It’s encouraging to see that eating walnuts may benefit this particular population.”
They could lower risk of heart disease.
People who regularly eat nuts, including peanuts, walnuts and tree nuts, have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease or coronary heart disease compared to people who never or almost never eat nuts, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The study of 210,000 people is the largest to date looking at frequency of nut consumption in relation to incidences of cardiovascular disease.
Marta Guasch-Ferre, lead author of the study and research fellow at the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said: “Our findings support recommendations of increasing the intake of a variety of nuts, as part of healthy dietary patterns, to reduce the risk of chronic disease in the general populations.”
They’re full of nutrients.
In terms of dietary composition, nuts have a good nutritional profile, are high in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA).
Nuts also contain substantial amounts of dietary fibre, minerals such as magnesium and potassium, vitamins including folate and vitamin E, and other beneficial bioactive compounds such as phytosterols, tocopherols, and polyphenols.
They could boost gut health.
One study found that eating just a handful of almonds caused measurable changes in gut microbiota.
“The ‘healthy’ intestinal bacteria, such as lactic acid and bifidobacteria, are thought to help maintain a strong intestinal barrier so you don’t get pathogenic bacteria in,” said Dr Bobbi Langkamp-Henken, a professor at the University of Florida and co-author of the study, according to The Active Times.
“If they do cross the intestinal barrier, they set up an inflammatory state that may lead to chronic disease, such as type 2 diabetes.”
A separate study published in the journal Anaerobe looked at volunteers who ate either almonds or almond skins for six weeks.
They found consumption of almonds and almond skins, both of which are rich in fibre, increased the number of good microbes in the gut without boosting the activity of bad microbes.
“Our observations suggest that almond and almond skin ingestion may lead to an improvement in the intestinal microbiota profile and a modification of the intestinal bacterial activities, which would induce the promotion of health beneficial factors and the inhibition of harmful factors,” researchers wrote.
“Thus we believe that almonds and almond skins possess potential prebiotic properties.”
They could help prevent pancreatic cancer.
Researchers sampled data of more than 75,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study - a long-running investigation into the health of thousands of female nurses in the US - and analysed the link between pancreatic cancer and nut consumption.
The findings revealed that women who ate a handful of nuts two or more times per week had a 35% lower pancreatic cancer risk, compared to those who did not eat them.
They could help you lose weight.
A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating nuts regularly was associated with a lower risk of weight gain and obesity.
The aim of the research was to determine the relationship between nut consumption and long-term weight change.
“The results of this study suggest that incorporating nuts into diets does not lead to greater weight gain and may help weight control,” researchers said.