Yesterday, I mentioned that the Mediterranean diet has been linked to a reduced risk of developing peripheral artery disease. The diet prominently features vegetables, nuts, olives, grains and fish, but little red meat. Even though nuts are high in fat calories, study after study has shown that eating nuts is good for you. Snacking on nuts has a positive impact on hunger, for example, helping people stick to a weight-loss diet.
The fats in nuts are monounsaturated. Those are the heart-healthy kinds of fats found in most fat-containing plant foods. The information I discussed yesterday was gleaned from the PREDIMED study, a longterm study conducted in Spain. It’s been supplying a wealth of information about the Mediterranean diet and its effects on health.
Here’s another interesting finding from the study: People who eat nuts three times per week or more are less likely to die from heart disease—or cancer—than people who do not eat nuts! Nut eaters overall had a much lower risk of dying from these diseases than non-nut eaters (about 39%). People who ate walnuts regularly enjoyed an even bigger benefit: A 45% lower risk of death during the study period than non-nut eaters.
Researchers are not entirely sure why nuts—and walnuts in particular—are so beneficial. But they note that nuts are rich in fiber, minerals, monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, and in the case of walnuts, the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linoleic acid. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients with anti-inflammatory effects in the body. By definition, we must have these nutrients to thrive, but can’t make them. So they must be obtained through the diet. Clearly, it’s time to embrace nuts, if you haven’t already.
Marta Guasch-Ferré, Mònica Bulló, Miguel Ángel Martínez-González, Emilio Ros, Dolores Corella, Ramon Estruch, Montserrat Fitó, Fernando Arós, Julia Wärnberg, Miquel Fiol, José Lapetra, Ernest Vinyoles, Rosa Lamuela-Raventós, Lluís Serra-Majem, Xavier Pintó, Valentina Ruiz-Gutierrez, Josep Basora and Jordi Salas-Salvado. Frequency of nut consumption and mortality risk in the PREDIMED nutrition intervention trial. BMC Medicine, 2013; 11: 164 DOI: 10.1186/1741-7015-11-164