Food and Health

Nuts offer nutritional benefits

by Cindy Fitch, Ph.D., RD, WVU Extension Service Families and Health Program Director

mixed nuts A new study reveals that eating a small serving of nuts each day can have a big impact on overall health.

The study appeared in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine on November 21, 2013. It reported that people who ate nuts daily were significantly less likely to die from all causes than were people who ate nuts only rarely or not at all.

The researchers looked at the usual intake over a 30-year period of more than 76,000 women and 42,000 men in the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study. They asked the participants how often they had consumed a serving of nuts during the preceding year. One serving is equal to 1 ounce, or about 2 tablespoons.

Participants had the option to answer pecans

  • never or almost never,
  • one to three times a months,
  • once a week,
  • two to four times a week,
  • five or six times a week,
  • once a day,
  • two or three times a day,
  • four to six times a day, or
  • more than six times a day.
almonds When all factors were taken into consideration, there was a significant decrease in risk of death from all causes in those who regularly consumed nuts. The more frequent the nut consumption, the greater the decrease in risk.

Those who consumed nuts seven or more times per week were 20 percent less likely to die during the study period.

Nutrition experts have known for a long time that nuts were beneficial in the diet. They contain high-quality protein, unsaturated fatty acids, fiber, vitamin E, B vitamins, potassium, calcium and magnesium. They also contain antioxidants and phytochemicals that may help to prevent inflammation, heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

Nuts are high in fat, but it is polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat – the healthy types of fat. The high fat content of nuts makes them high in calories, but people who eat nuts regularly are less likely to be obese and tend to have a lower waist circumference.

peanuts Peanut lovers, rejoice!

Peanuts, which are really a legume, were included in the study and showed a similar benefit to that of tree nuts. The researchers did not have enough information to determine how the nuts were prepared – salted, roasted, glazed, or raw, so general recommendations to limit salt and added sugars and fats still apply.