IT CAN be hard to get through the day without a snack or two, and all too often those snacks come in the unhealthy form of biscuits, cakes or crisps.
A handful of nuts, however, could curb those snack cravings — and boost your health at the same time.
Not only will their concentrated protein content help you feel fuller for longer, but they could protect you from a whole host of illnesses.
A new Harvard study has found that patients with prostate cancer who consumed nuts five or more times a week after diagnosis, had a 34% lower rate of mortality than those who ate nuts less than once a month.
Last year, a Dutch study found a link between daily nut consumption and a reduced chance of dying from several chronic diseases, including cancer and heart disease.
Nuts are packed with protein, fibre, and important vitamins and minerals, including — in differing proportions depending on the type of nut — calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, vitamin E, B vitamins, and selenium, the powerful antioxidant thought to help fight cancer, and which may also play a role in combating infertility, dementia and low thyroid function.
Nuts have a high fat content, but it’s the ‘healthy’ type — unsaturated — which is thought to help lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels.
Of course, not all nuts are created equal — a packet of roasted, salted nuts is not the same ‘healthy snack’ as some plain, raw almonds, for example, and dieticians advise avoiding nuts that are packaged, salted, or roasted in oil or honey; instead, eat them raw or dry-roasted.
Although the recent Harvard study found death rates among men with prostate cancer were more than a third less when they ate nuts regularly, it didn’t conclude that eating nuts actually helped prevent men from getting prostate cancer in the first place.
However, other studies have suggested nuts — particularly walnuts — may help prevent, or at least delay, some types of cancer, including breast, prostate, and colorectal.
Another Harvard study of 75,680 women last year found those who consumed a 28g serving of nuts two or more times a week, had a 13% lower risk of colorectal cancer compared to those who rarely ate nuts, while a Mexican study suggested that eating large amounts of peanuts, walnuts, or almonds over a lifetime meant women were two or three times less likely to develop breast cancer.
Many studies have identified a link between eating nuts and reduced risk of cardiovascular problems.
Harvard research found men who ate nuts at least twice a week over a year had a 47% lower risk of sudden cardiac death and a 30% lower risk of dying from all types of coronary artery disease.
One theory is that the beneficial effect on cardiovascular health may be linked to the effect nuts have on cholesterol — researchers in Canada compared three low-fat vegetarian diets and found that while they all produced lower cholesterol levels, the diet that contained 62g of nuts a day reduced ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol by 30%.
It’s also thought that nuts lower insulin resistance, so they help reduce the incidence of diabetes and inflammation.
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