For those who think longevity is all about hard work and deprivation, I have good news for you! There is something easy you can do to add two or three years to your life, and it involves eating fast food. Yes, one kind of fast food actually offers health benefits! I am talking about nature’s best “fast food”—nuts. According to researchers at Loma Linda University Medical Center, eating nuts regularly may in fact lengthen your life.1
Many of us grew up hearing that eating nuts was good for us. This advice has been passed down through generations of Adventists. However, in the last 20 years, researchers at Loma Linda University Medical Center have discovered scientific evidence for the nutritional benefits of treating yourself to these handy little packages of protein. Here are some of the benefits of eating nuts.
1. Improves health for nearly everyone. 2 People who benefit from eating nuts include men, women, vegetarians, meateaters, the obese, thin, young, old, athletic and unfit. Everyone benefits!
2. Lowers the risk of heart disease and heart attacks. The Adventist Health Study reported that when comparing people who ate nuts every day with people who ate nuts less than once a month, nut-eaters experienced up to 60 percent fewer heart attacks than their counterparts.3 Recent epidemiologic studies have consistently shown an association between nut consumption and a reduced risk of coronary heart disease.4
3. Lowers the risk of stroke.5 This is not surprising since many strokes follow a process similar to that of heart attacks.
4. Lowers the risk of developing diabetes and metabolic syndrome. In a large study, the regular intake of nuts was associated with reduced risk of diabetes mellitus among women.6 Another study showed that adding 30 grams of nuts per day to a Mediterranean diet resulted in a significant reversal of metabolic syndrome.7
5. Lowers cholesterol levels.8 Nuts contain healthy fatty acids as well as plant sterols, which are often added to margarine to reduce cholesterol absorption from food. Walnuts were especially beneficial in lowering LDL cholesterol.
6. Lowers the risk of obesity and weight gain. Although some may be afraid of gaining weight from eating nuts, this fear is unfounded. Nuts contain low levels of saturated fats and high levels of unsaturated fats. In studies, those who ate nuts often were actually thinner on average than those who rarely consumed nuts. In fact, long-term nut consumption is linked with lower body weight and lower risk of obesity and weight gain.
As a result of these benefits, calculations suggest that those who eat nuts daily gain an extra five or six years of life free of heart disease9 and that eating nuts regularly—though not daily—appears to increase longevity by two or three years.10
Isn’t it amazing how beneficial nuts are? But how many should we eat? Studies suggest that 30-60 grams (1-2 ounces) of nuts should be consumed daily to gain the maximum benefit.
You may wonder how nuts can be so beneficial. Here is what we know: Nuts have plenty of unsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, and phytochemicals which are essential in protecting us against cardiovascular disease and even cancer. Walnuts, pecans, and chestnuts have the highest levels of antioxidants; almonds are high in phytochemicals, calcium, and magnesium. Other healthful elements in nuts are folate, carotene, vitamin K, phosphorus, copper, selenium, potassium, and zinc.11 Eating a wide variety of nuts ensures that you will receive the most health benefits.12
Isn’t it amazing how God prepared this treat of denselypackaged nutrients with wide-ranging cardiovascular and metabolic benefits? Nuts can be readily incorporated into a healthful diet. They are nature’s best fast food, easily accessible for most of us, easily transported, and easily stored with no need for refrigeration. Nuts require no cooking and very little preparation; they come with a natural wrapper and are environmentally friendly. Grab a handful each day and live longer. It’s that easy!
1 Sabaté, J., CHIP Summit 2009, Loma Linda, CA.
2 Fraser, G. E., Clinical Cardiology 22 (Suppl. III), 11-15 (1999).
3 Fraser, G. E., Sabaté, J., et al. “The Adventist Health Study,” in Archives of Internal Medicine, 151:1416-4 (1992).
4 Sabaté, J., and Ang, Y., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2009, 89:1643S-1648S.
5 Yochum, L. A., et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 72:476- 483 (2000).
6 Jiang, R., et al., JAMA, 288:2554-2560 (2002).
7 Salas-Salvadó, H., et al., Archives of Internal Medicine, 168:2449- 2458 (2008).
8 Rose, E., CAB Reviews, 3, Jan. 12, 2008.
9 Hu, F. B., and Stamfer, M. J., Current Atherosclerosis Reports, 1:204- 209 (1999).
10 Fraser, G. E., and Shavik, D. J., “Ten Years of Life: Is It a Matter of Choice?” in Archives of Internal Medicine, 161:1645-1652 (2001).
11 King, J. C., Blumberg, J., Ingwersen, L., Jenab, M., and Tucker, K. L., “Tree Nuts and Peanuts as Components of a Healthy Diet,” in Journal of Nutrition, 2008, 138:1736S-1740S.
12 Just one note of caution: Some people—generally no more than 1 in 100—may be allergic to one or more kinds of nuts. If you don’t already know, find out through your doctor whether you are one of them.
Katia Reinert Family Nurse Practitioner at Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, Maryland, USA.