Nuts?About Nuts

Since tree nuts and peanuts contain numerous minerals, vitamins, protein, fiber and unsaturated fat, they are considered a healthy nutritious food.

In 2003, the United States Food and Drug Administration declared eating a serving of most nuts may reduce the risk of heart disease.

A long-term research study titled, “Association of Nut Consumption with Total and Cause Specific Mortality” appeared in the Nov. 21 issue of “The New England Journal of Medicine.” The study revealed that the more often one consumed a serving of nuts, the lower their risk of heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease and death from all causes was compared to those who ate no nuts.

The study included 76,464 women in the Nurses’ Health Study from 1980 to 2010 and 42,498 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study from 1986 to 2010. Data was gathered by questionnaires every 2-4 years. Nut consumption, including peanuts, was requested and summarized as never, less than once a week, once a week, two to four times per week, five to six times per week and seven or more times per week. The results showed that those who ate nuts seven or more times per week had a 20 percent lower risk of death than those who ate none.

Even those who ate nuts only once per week had a 13 percent lower risk of death than those who ate none. Interestingly, heavier persons benefited the most from nut consumption compared to persons weighing less.

Also, those who ate more nuts per week had fewer deaths from stroke, diabetes, cancer, arteriovascular disease, heart disease, respiratory disease, infection and kidney disease.

Since peanuts and tree nuts contain significant fat, standard diet plans often discourage nut consumption, but the study showed increased nut consumption was associated with decreased weight gain because fat in nuts is primarily unsaturated, the beneficial fat.

The data in the accompanying table listing nutrition facts was gathered from nut packages and the Internet. Cost per serving of nuts was calculated using prices found in local grocery stores.

In addition to the nutrients listed in the table, others like B vitamins, folate, niacin, vitamin E and minerals such as magnesium, manganese, calcium, iron and zinc may be present in specific nuts. Peculiar to Brazil nuts, one serving contains 30 times the daily recommended allowance for selenium so toxicity can develop with repeated servings. For this reason only 2-4 Brazil nuts should be consumed daily which is much less than a standard serving. Serving size for nuts is defined as one ounce or 28 grams. For practical purposes, 1 ounce of nuts fits nicely into a 1/4 measuring cup or the palm of the hand.

Nut allergy can be life threatening and may affect 1.1 percent of the population. For this group the benefits of nuts is missed but some seeds such as sunflower may be a possible substitute.

If nut consumption, in addition to practicing other healthy life style habits, is started early in life, one can decrease the risk of developing chronic life-debilitating diseases compared to those who eat no nuts but not likely live long enough to become nuts! Start today. Buy several kinds of unsalted nuts, chop them up and sprinkle one serving on cereal and yogurt or eat a handful as a snack.