Research now shows you can improve your health and increase your chances of living longer with a snack that doesn’t cost much, and is already popular for good reason: it’s delicious.
This goes against the widespread belief that the foods that help you get healthier are dull and tasteless. Ice cream, alas, does not appear on any list of health foods I’ve seen, but this is almost as good. . .
Nuts– one of my all-time favorite munchies – have proven again and again to help the body fight off illness, improve your brain and increase your life expectancy.
It doesn’t even seem to matter what type of nuts you like best. The combinations of nutrients found in all sorts of nuts deliver huge benefits.
How Many Years Can You Add?
According to researchers in Spain, the nutrients in these little wonders make them important components of a healthy diet. They’re a good source of fiber, minerals (potassium, magnesium and calcium), unsaturated fatty acids and vitamins like folate and vitamin E.
Plus, nuts contain bioactive substances like polyphenols that are natural antioxidants, and phytosterols – plant chemicals that improve heart health.
Among the more than 7,000 people involved in the five-year Spanish study, those who ate three or more servings of nuts per week enjoyed a 39 percent reduced risk of dying while the study was in progress, compared to folks who rarely ate any nuts at all.1
A natural Digestive Aid
A wide range of research has found that eating nuts improves your digestive health. The digestive benefits stem from the fact that nut nutrients nurture beneifical bacteria that live in the intestines.
For instance, a study at the University of Illinois shows the fiber in a nut like walnuts helps probiotic bacteria break down the compounds in food and enables us to digest more nutrients from our meals.
This analysis demonstrated that walnuts help decrease what they call microbial “proinflammatory derived secondary bile acids” – substances that can inflame the intestinal walls. Along with that, the walnuts reduce the amount of LDL cholesterol – cholesterol vulnerable to harmful oxidation — circulating in the blood.2
Nuts can also help delay the progress of cancer in the digestive tract, and thereby help you live longer.
An investigation at Yale reveals that people treated for stage III colon cancer who regularly munch on nuts enjoy a significantly reduced risk of having their cancer recur and also are less likely to die from the disease.
This six-and-a-half year study involved more than 800 cancer patients who had undergone surgery and chemotherapy. The people who ate at least two one-ounce servings of nuts each week – and that’s not much – were 46 percent more likely to survive with no cancer recurrence during the years of the study.3
In this test, peanuts did not help. As you may know, peanuts are not true nuts – they’re a relative of beans. But what are called tree nuts – almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts and pecans – do help keep cancer at bay.
There are plenty of other impressive reasons to eat nuts. Some of the most important effects include:
- Cuts risk of diabetes: Research at UCLA found that people who eat walnuts regularly have about a 50 percent reduced risk of diabetes compared to non-walnut eaters. And according to this study, people who ate three tablespoons of walnuts daily had a further 47 percent reduced risk compared to those who only ate 1.5 tablespoons every day.4
- Lowers the risk of being overweight: A study at Loma Linda University shows that nuts can help keep weight off. The study didn’t find a huge advantage for nut eaters, but the difference was big enough to be significant.5
- Improves brain function: Tests in which participants ate nuts and then had their brain waves measured showed that nuts can strengthen brain wave frequencies, indicating better brain health. In this study, pistachios increased gamma wave response, which is linked to learning and perception. Peanuts (I know, they’re not really nuts) helped with delta response, which is associated with immunity and deep sleep.6
- Supports a healthy heart rhythm: Research in Sweden tracked people’s health for 17 years. The study found that eating nuts once or twice a week lowers the risk of atrial fibrillation by 12 percent. If you up that to three or more times weekly, you can expect to shrink the risk by 18 percent compared to folks who rarely eat nuts.7
I have to admit that even if there wasn’t all this medical research on the benefits of nuts, I’d probably still snack on them. But these tests show that they’re a guilt-free treat.