Those squirrels are onto something. (Photo: Getty Images)
Love nuts? You’re in luck — they just might help you live longer.
That’s what new research published in the International Journal of Epidemiology has found. For the study, researchers analyzed the nut and peanut butter intake of more than 120,000 adults aged 55-69 in the Netherlands, as well as their mortality rates years later.
They discovered that people who ate tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, and walnuts) as well as peanuts had a lower risk of dying from cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness, and neurodegenerative diseases — essentially all the major causes of death — during the time period of the study. The results were the same for men and women.
Participants needed to eat at least 10 grams of nuts or peanuts a day to see the benefits, researchers found. Luckily, it’s not hard to eat that amount daily.
While peanuts typically aren’t touted for their health benefits as much as tree nuts, researchers discovered that they were just as effective as other types of nuts at lowering a person’s risk.
The relationship between nut intake and heart disease has been studied in the past: Research published in the journalNutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases found that frequent nut consumption may protect postmenopausal women against heart disease, and a 2014 study published inThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a link between eating nuts and a lowered risk of developing heart disease, as well as an overall risk of an earlier death. However, unlike the new research, it could not find a link between nuts and a reduced chance of developing diabetes.
So does this mean you should make nuts part of your daily diet? Absolutely, says certified dietitian-nutritionist Gina Keatley.
“Nuts are amazing,” she tells Yahoo Health, adding that they’re packed with fiber, have a form of omega-3 fatty acid that can help lower the risk of developing heart disease and can help lower cholesterol, and they contain flavonoids.
But while researchers found a link between living a longer life and nuts, they couldn’t say the same for peanut butter.
That doesn’t shock Keatley, who says that the process of getting peanut butter from peanuts (which involves high temperatures) can destroy some of its health-boosting amino acids, and possibly some of the fatty acids. And unfortunately, it’s the same for natural peanut butter as well as sugar-added versions.
Even though researchers found that a range of nuts helped lower the risk of an earlier death, Keatley says some are better than others in terms of nutrition. If you have to choose, she recommends opting for almonds, cashews, and pistachios due to their lower calorie content, and taking a pass on Macadamia nuts and pecans, which have the lowest protein along with the highest fat and calories.
Of course, it’s possible to eat too many nuts.
And as the new research found, it only takes a small amount to get the health benefits. “An ounce of nuts is a serving,” points out Keatley. “This is usually not enough to satisfy someone, so they eat more.” She also notes that canned nuts are often salted and contain additional oils, which can pack on the calories.
To keep from OD’ing on nuts, she recommends shelling your own — the process of cracking each one open will slow you down and help you to feel fuller, faster, so you can reap the health benefits without expanding your waistline.
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