This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
In the 1980s, nuts were vilified because their high fat content was thought to promote weight gain. Now, after the past decade of research, scientists have found that these tasty, crunchy morsels are valuable for reducing the condition that leads to chronic disease.
Eating Nuts Five Times Per Week Reduces Inflammation
Past research has tied nuts to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and death from all causes. Dr. Ying Bao, senior author of the current study conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told Reuters Health that her investigative team suspected nuts produce these benefits through decreasing inflammation.
To test their hypothesis, they had 5,013 participants fill out questionnaires on their dietary habits over the course of four years. They also collected blood samples from the subjects to measure the levels of three biomarkers indicative of inflammation.
The results showed the individuals who ate at least five servings of nuts per week had 20 percent lower levels of one biomarker and 16 percent lower levels of another. No reduction was noted in the third biomarker.
Next, the researchers evaluated the effects of substituting three servings of nuts per week for three servings of processed meat, red meat, refined grains or eggs. This replacement led to substantially lower amounts of the two biomarkers.
The study defined one serving as an ounce, which equates to a handful of nuts or one tablespoon of peanut butter. Although the beneficial effects were associated with any type of nuts the participants ate, no advantage was connected to the consumption of peanut butter. The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
“Much remains unknown about how our diet influences inflammation and, in turn, our risk of disease,” said Bao. “But our study supports an overall healthful role for nuts in the diet and suggests reducing inflammation as a potential mechanism that may help explain the benefits of nuts on cardiometabolic diseases.”
Nutrients in Nuts
Nuts are very nutrient dense. They are rich in a healthful variety of fat — unsaturated fatty acids. In addition, they contain fiber, vitamins and minerals along with plant protein, phenolic antioxidants and phytosterols.
Differences are seen in the nutritional profile of nut varieties. Walnuts have the most omega-3 fatty acids, while almonds are plentiful in vitamin E and calcium. Brazil nuts contain more selenium than any other food. Peanuts are actually legumes, but they are nutritionally similar to tree nuts.
How to Eat Nuts
The roasting and processing of nuts destroys much of the healthful components, so eat them raw and unsalted. You can include them in salads, cereals and yogurts. A sandwich made of raw almond or peanut butter can be exchanged for one made of processed meat. It’s best to avoid nut butters that aren’t raw because most contain hydrogenated oils and sugar.