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Spanish Spiced Whole Almonds

A recent study from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health found that those who eat nuts have a longer life expectancy.   This study, entitled the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, examined the diets and health of approximately 120,000 men and women over a period of thirty years.  

Researchers found that participants who ate at least one ounce of nuts per day were 20 percent less likely to die than those who did not eat any nuts at all.  Participants who ate even more nuts had even better results on their health and longevity.

According to the study, participants who ate a one ounce serving of nuts each day were 29 percent less likely to die from heart disease.  They also maintained a healthier weight than those who never ate nuts.  The nut eaters were at a much lower risk of developing cancer and lung disease as well.  

Those who only ate nuts a few times a month still saw an increase in life expectancy, with a 7 percent lower chance of premature death than those who never ate nuts.  Previous studies have shown that eating nuts on a regular basis lowers the risk of developing chronic disease, such as diabetes, and many forms of cancer.

Researchers noted that those who ate nuts had a healthier lifestyle in general than those who never ate nuts.  The nut eaters were much more likely to have a healthy weight, be non-smokers, exercise regularly, and eat a healthy diet including fruits and vegetables.  

While each of these lifestyle choices can increase life expectancy on its own, researchers found that after all of these factors had been weighed, in combination with age, race, and family history of disease, those who ate nuts still had a lower risk of premature death caused by heart disease, lung disease, and cancer.  

What is it about nuts that makes them so great for you and protects your body from disease?  Researchers could not pinpoint one specific cause.  Dr. Charles Fuchs, the study’s senior author, pointed out, “Nuts are a complex food.  

There are a number of nutty compounds-amino acids, phytochemicals, fiber, and several vitamins and minerals-that, alone or in combination, could explain the food’s health benefits.”  Researchers from the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study found that it did not matter what type of nut participants ate. 

Previous research has demonstrated many health benefits from eating nuts.  They are full of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which lower your LDL, or bad cholesterol levels.  Nuts are also the best plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids help to regulate your heart rhythm.  Nuts are an excellent source of cholesterol-lowering fiber and plant sterols.  They also contain vitamin E and L-arginine, which promote healthy arteries.

Nuts are delicious, affordable, and easy to incorporate into almost any diet and lifestyle.  A one ounce serving of nuts is about 30 peanuts, 20 almonds, or 18 cashews.  Purdue University researchers found that the more broken down nuts are before they are swallowed, the more your body is able to absorb their life-extending benefits.  

For the maximum benefit, add nuts to smoothies, puree them and add them to sauces like pesto, or whip up a batch of homemade nut butter.  Whole nuts can also be added to dishes such as cashew chicken or included in your favorite granola.  Chopped nuts are delicious when sprinkled on salads or ice cream sundaes.