Some of the smallest ingredients in your cupboard might just be among the most powerful. Research shows that a diet that includes eating nuts regularly – that is one handful (about 30g) five or more times a week – in combination with other diet and lifestyle choices, may increase longevity.
“Nuts are a nutrient-rich food and provide us with unsaturated fats, fibre, protein, vitamins, minerals and other micro-nutrients that could help reduce our risk of heart and circulatory diseases,” says Tracy Parker, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation. Studies suggest that eating nuts regularly may help reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks and other health problems. One study of 7,000 men and women at high risk of cardiovascular disease found that those who added 30g every day to their diet cut their risk of stroke in half.
They’re utterly delicious and studies show they might help us live longer. Win-win!”
There’s no shying away from the fact that nuts are also calorie-dense and high in fat, however – a 30g handful of mixed nuts contains just under 200 calories, the equivalent of some chocolate bars. The good news? That shouldn’t put you off enjoying them. Most nuts have high levels of ‘healthy’ unsaturated fats and low levels of saturated fats. (Chestnuts are an exception – they’re lower in all types of fats and higher in carbohydrate than other nuts.) Swapping foods high in saturated fats for something like nuts can help reduce the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels that can build up inside our blood vessels without negatively impacting ‘good’ HDL cholesterol levels.
One study found that people who ate 43g of almonds a day significantly improved their ‘good’ cholesterol levels as well as increasing the removal of its ‘bad’ counterpart, compared to those who consumed a banana muffin containing the same number of calories. A study from 2017 linked cashew consumption with lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
Some of the smallest ingredients in your cupboard might just be among the most powerful.”
What’s more, studies have shown that eating nuts in moderation isn’t linked to weight gain. Fascinatingly, we now know that a lot of the calories in nuts pass straight through your digestive system. That’s because the fat in whole nuts is protected by the plant-cell walls, which aren’t easily broken down in digestion.
So when you eat them, little capsules of fat make their way through your digestive tract intact. Almonds, for example, have actually been found to provide 32% fewer calories than the label says.
It’s also worth considering that the high protein, fibre and unsaturated fat content of nuts may help fill you up, preventing you from reaching for other, potentially less healthy treats. Snacking on almonds in the morning for instance was shown in one study to curb appetite later in the day. “Nuts are a great alternative to less healthy snacks such as crisps, chocolate and biscuits,” says Tracy. “Just try to avoid dry-roasted, salted, flavoured or honey-roasted nuts, which come with extra salt and sometimes sugar too.” She suggests aiming for a portion of around 30g a day, or 2 tablespoons of nut butter.
Snacking on almonds in the morning for instance was shown in one study to curb appetite later in the day.”
The high protein content of nuts has led some experts to suggest that they may be one of the more sustainable sources of protein. According to the EAT-Lancet report – the first full scientific review of the subject – a diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables, wholegrains and plant-based sources of protein such as nuts and seeds may be beneficial from both health and planetary perspectives.
Thankfully, there are many inviting ways to go nuts for nuts. While they’re delicious on their own, you can also whizz them into dips, dressings and soups, sprinkle over salads and stir fries, or bake them into all manner of treats. Keep on reading for more ideas – and perhaps crack open that jar of peanut butter come breakfast.
Adding crunch and flavour, nuts are endlessly versatile.”
3 WAYS TO EAT MORE NUTS
1. Add some crushed nuts to gratin or crumble toppings for extra texture. Walnuts or hazelnuts are particularly good. You can also use them to top fish fillets, mixed with plenty of citrus zest and herbs, then bake until golden.
3. Stir a spoonful of nut butter into smoothies or chilled overnight oats. Or use almond or peanut butter in slaw dressings. Mix with a little crushed garlic, lemon juice, a dash of honey and warm water to make a double cream consistency, then season and add a little chopped chilli and finely grated ginger if liked.