Go a Little Nuts to Boost Your Health

Patient Expert

Everyone is absolutely going nuts Almonds, cashews and walnuts. Yep, even pecans and peanuts. But are these tasty morsels actually good for you? It turns out that in most cases, the answer is a resounding "Yes!"

Weight Control

I've always heard that you should rarely eat nuts because of their high fat content, especially if you're watching your weight. A new study suggests that this belief isn't true. Researchers reviewed 31 clinical trials as part of a meta-analysis of research on nuts and body weight. They found that eating nuts did not have a significant effect on body weight, body mass index or waist circumference in comparison with control diets.   In fact, other studies have found that nuts have been found to suppress hunger.

Health Benefits

That should come as no surprise. In a 2010 article published in Nutrients, Dr. Emilio Ros wrote, "Epidemiologic studies have associated nut consumption with a reduced incidence of coronary heart disease and gallstones in both genders and diabetes in women. Limited evidence also suggests beneficial effects on hypertension, cancer, and inflammation. Interventional studies consistently show that nut intake has a cholesterol-lowering effect, even in the context of healthy diets, and there is emerging evidence of beneficial effects on oxidative stress, inflammation, and vascular reactivity." The researcher noted that nuts seem to have a positive influence on blood pressure, metabolic syndrome and visceral adiposity (i.e., belly fat).

Heart Health

The Mayo Clinic reports that nuts - no matter what the type -- are good for heart health, even though some types have more nutrients and fats that are good for your heart than other types. Eating nuts can help lower low-density lipoprotein ("bad) cholesterol levels. This type of cholesterol is considered identified as a cause of heart disease. Furthermore, consuming nuts lowers the risk of developing blood clots and improve the health of artery linings.

A Dynamic Addition to Your Diet

Depending on the nut, you may be getting the following nutritional benefits:

  • Fiber - This component helps lower cholesterol, helps with satiety and may help prevent diabetes.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids - These nutrients help prevent heart arrhythmias that can lead to heart attacks.
  • Vitamin E - This vitamin helps decrease the development of plaque in the arteries that otherwise could cause chest pain, coronary artery disease and even a heart attack.
  • Plant sterols - These components occur naturally and can help lower cholesterol.
  • L-arginine - This substance is believed to help keep artery walls flexible and less prone to being clogged by blood clots.

A Nut Case

So which nuts should you pick? Health.com offers the following suggestions:

  • Almonds, cashews and pistachios are the best nuts for a diet because they are relatively low-calorie, but be sure to eat them raw or dry roasted.
  • Macadamia nuts and pecans are the nuts to avoid if you're on a diet because they have the most calories, the highest fat content and the lowest amount of protein.
  • Walnuts are the best choice if you're focused on heart health, because they have a large amount of alpha linoleic acid that helps the heart keep a normal rhythm.
  • Peanuts are great for your brain since they have a high level of folate.
  • Brazil nuts and pecans are important addition to men's diet since they have components that have been linked to prostate health.
  • Almonds are the ones to grab if you're focused on overall health since their nutrients have been linked to stopping inflammation and health conditions such as age-related cognitive decline.

Nuts should be a part of your diet because of their health benefits. And nuts can even be an important part of your eating plan when you're trying to lose weight because they provide fiber and also make you feel full. So grab a can of mixed nuts when you go grocery shopping and enjoy!

Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

Flores-Mateo, G., et al. (2013). Nut intake and adiposity: meta-analysis of clinical trials. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Mayo Clinic. (2011). Nuts and your health: Eating nuts for heart health.

Pittman, G. (2013). More evidence adding nuts is a healthy choice. MedlinePlus.

Ros, E. (2010). Health benefits of nut consumption. Nutrients.