If you don’t go overboard, munching on nuts daily can help lower your risks of developing metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The latest on the health benefits of eating these traditional snack foods comes from a comparison of people who ate nuts versus those who didn’t. Researchers from the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center looked at data from 13,292 adults who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys between 1999 and 2004 to learn how many ate at least a quarter of an ounce of tree nuts per day (including walnuts, almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts and pistachios). They found that 18.6 percent of adults between ages 19 and 50 ate nuts daily as did 21 percent of those age 51 or older. Compared with study participants who didn’t report eating nuts, those who did had fewer risk factors for metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease - they weighed less, had less hypertension, higher HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, lower C-reactive protein (a marker for inflammation), less abdominal obesity and a lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome.
My take? This is just one of the many studies suggesting the health benefits of including nuts in your diet. While high in fat, most nuts contain monounsaturated fat, the type that is good for the heart. Results from an ongoing study, which is monitoring the health of 86,000 nurses, noted several years ago that those who ate more than five ounces of nuts per week (about the amount you get by eating a single airline packet daily) had one third fewer heart attacks than those who rarely or never ate nuts. I usually enjoy a handful a day - my favorites are cashews, almonds and walnuts.