The health benefits of nuts are legendary. Eat nuts five or more times a week and your risk of heart attack drops by a whopping 60%! On top of his stunning statistic, research shows that people who eat more nuts are thinner, have normalized cholesterol profiles and better bones. They also have lowered risk for cancer and inflammation.
Research proves the health benefits of nuts
Scientists in Spain studied how nut consumption affected people diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. Half of their 50 subjects ate a healthy diet for 12 weeks. The other half ate a healthy diet supplemented daily with 30 grams of mixed nuts for 12 weeks. The nut-eating group showed a significant reduction in DNA damage compared to the group not supplementing with nuts. This finding may explain the beneficial effects of regular nut consumption on several chronic diseases such as cancer and atherosclerosis.
In another study, the same group of scientists found improved insulin sensitivity after a daily intake of 30 grams of mixed nuts in subjects with metabolic syndrome.
Scientists in Turkey analyzed the effects of pistachio consumption on blood lipids, antioxidant activity, and oxidative stress in rats fed a high-fat diet for 8 weeks. They found that pistachio consumption significantly decreased triglycerides and reactive substance levels, and increased total antioxidant activity. These findings have beneficial applications in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
In other research, the Mediterranean diet was administered to 32 healthy young men for 4 weeks. Then for the next 4 weeks, the men ate the Mediterranean diet with pistachio nuts replacing 20% of the daily caloric intake. Compared with those eating the Mediterranean diet alone, the men with the pistachio substitution showed significantly decreased glucose and LDL cholesterol levels. Their ratio of LDL to total cholesterol also decreased significantly. In addition, the pistachio substitution diet significantly improved several measures of inflammation.
Anacardic acid found in cashew nuts helps assure apoptosis (appropriate programmed cell death), according to researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. They found that this correlated with the down regulation of gene action that allows the cell proliferation and invasion that is cancer. Additionally, anacardic acid slowed the ability of cancer cells to establish their own blood supply.
Many other studies have documented the health benefits of nuts
The 1990’s Adventist Health Study of a large popoulation of California Seventh Day Adventists found that in addition to reducing the risk of heart attack by up to 60%, eating nuts was one of the four top factors for extending longevity. These beneficial effects were found for men, women, vegetarians, meat-eaters, fatter people, thinner people, the old, the young, those who exercise and those who don’t.
Four other large studies have since confirmed that eating nuts confers cardiac benefits and reduces risk of developing diabetes, dementia, advanced macular degeneration, gallstones and stroke. Calculations suggest that daily nut eaters gain an extra five to six years of life free of coronary disease, and an overall longevity increase of two years.
The more frequently nuts are eaten the better, as health benefits of nuts appear to increase with increased consumption. The risk of fatal coronary disease and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes both appear to decrease steadily as nut consumption increases to once or more per day.
Eating fat doesn’t make you fat
Nuts contain lots of fat, and many people are still operating under the food industry induced belief that fat makes you fat, so nuts are often shunned. But research does not support this conclusion, so don’t miss out on the health benefits of nuts because you are worried about your weight. In the Nurses’ Health Study, the frequent nut consumers were actually thinner on average than those who almost never consumed nuts, and adding daily supplements of nuts for six months resulted in no increase in body weight. Nuts apparently satisfy hunger and provide a wealth of nutrients, creating a feeling of satiety and comfort. This results in an overall lessening of food consumption and craving.
Nuts are nutrient packed
One big reason for the amazing health benefits of nuts are their polyphenols, a type of antioxidant. Polyphenols are thought to be instrumental in blocking oxidative stress, a causative factor for neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases.
Nuts provide a good amount of magnesium, boron and zinc, so essential for bone health. They are an excellent source of the antioxidant mineral manganese. All nuts are a good source of antioxidant vitamin E, folic acid, copper, and the amino acid arginine, which is a precursor of human growth hormone. Some nuts contain tryptophan, a stimulator of serotonin in the brain that alleviates depression and boosts relaxation. Nuts are high in fiber and phytochemicals that protect against cancer and other chronic diseases.
Which nuts are best?
Getting the health benefits of nuts is best achieved by eating a variety of them. In the Adventist Study, about 32 percent of the nuts eaten were peanuts, 29 percent almonds, 16 percent walnuts, and 23 percent other types. The Nurses’ study found that peanuts, which are really legumes, appeared to be just as effective in reducing risk of coronary heart disease as tree nuts. Experiments where volunteers who ate nuts as part of their diet for several weeks have found that walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachio and macadamia nuts all alter the composition of the blood in ways that would be expected to reduce coronary risk.
Some nuts offer additional benefits. Walnuts are high in heart-healthy omega 3 fats. Almonds are particularly nutritious, with 100 grams yielding 16.9 grams of protein. They also contain a good amount of laetrile, a substance many believe is nature’s most effective cancer preventative and cure. Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, which along with zinc make up the two most critical minerals to prevent breast cancer. Eating three Brazil nuts a day provides ample selenium in a highly bio-available form.