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The Nuts and Bolts of Nut Consumption

Nisha Patel, MD, asks what the deal is with nuts. Are they really healthy for you?

I used to avoid eating nuts because I thought they were “just full of a bunch of fat and calories.”

In reality, nuts are a nutrient dense food that contain a higher proportion of unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemical (phenolic compounds).

A study by Guasch-Ferre found that total nut consumption was inversely associated with the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

 

Nuts are a nutrient dense food that contain a higher proportion of unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemical (phenolic compounds). Click To Tweet

 

This inverse association was seen in those who ate nuts more frequently, at least two servings or more per week. This risk was lowered especially so in those who ate nuts greater than five servings per week.

They defined one serving as 28 grams or approximately one ounce (estimated by the amount that fits into the palm of your hand). This particular study looked at consumption of peanuts, walnuts, tree nuts (including almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios & walnuts) and peanut butter.

It did not matter what type of nut was eaten, the results were the same. However, the authors did not see any associations between peanut butter intake and cardiovascular disease risk.

In another study by Bes-Rastrollo et al, frequent nut consumption (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts) at least twice a week was associated with a reduced risk of weight gain. A serving size of nuts in this study was 50 grams (1.7 oz). This finding is contrary to popular belief that even modest nut consumption results in weight gain.

Both of these studies support modest nut consumption as an integral part of a healthful diet.

Obviously, don’t eat the whole container, but eating a handful a day is beneficial (if you are not allergic or intolerant).

Consider replacing a less healthful snack with a handful of nuts a day.

Personally, I add pecans or walnuts to my peanut butter toast every morning or to my oatmeal for an added crunch.

I want to add that of all of the nuts available, walnuts contain the highest amount of alpha-linolenic acid or Omega-3.


Source:

Gausch-Ferre et al. “Nut Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease” J Am Coll Cardiol 2017 Nov 14;70(20):2519-2532.

Bes-Rastrollo et al. “Nut consumption and weight gain in a Mediterranean cohort: The SUN study.” 2007 Jan;15(1):107-16. doi: 10.1038/oby.2007.507.

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