The Global Burden of Disease Study, the most comprehensive and systematic analysis of the causes of death ever undertaken, involved nearly 500 researchers from more than 300 institutions in 50 countries and examined nearly 100,000 data sources. The study noted which foods, if added to the diet, might save lives. Eating more vegetables could potentially save 1.8 million lives. How about more nuts and seeds? 2.5 million lives. The study calculated that not eating enough nuts and seeds was the third-leading dietary risk factor for death and disability in the world, killing more people than processed meat consumption, and potentially leading to the deaths of 15 times more people than all those who die from overdoses of heroin, crack cocaine, and all other illicit drugs combined.
PREDIMED, one of the largest interventional dietary trials, randomized more than 7,000 men and women at high cardiovascular risk into different diet groups and followed them for years. One group received a free half-pound of nuts every week—the equivalent of eating about an extra half-ounce of nuts daily compared to what they had been consuming before the study even started. Without making major shifts in their diet, just the minor tweak of adding nuts appeared to cut stroke risk in half. Additionally, regardless of which group subjects had been assigned, those eating more nuts each day had a significantly lower risk of dying prematurely overall.
Which nut is healthiest? Normally, my answer is whichever you’ll eat regularly, but walnuts really do seem to take the lead. They have among the highest antioxidant and omega-3 levels, and beat out other nuts in vitro in terms of suppressing cancer cell growth.
One study found that a single serving of Brazil nuts has been shown to lower your cholesterol levels faster than statin drugs and keep them down even a month after that single meal, and by eating three to four handfuls of pistachios a day for three weeks, men in one study reported significant improvement in blood flow through the penis, accompanied by significantly firmer erections.
Nuts are high in calories, but they can be a lifeline without expanding your waistline, as nut consumption has not been found to lead to the expected weight gain. They may also extend your lifeline: Your life span may be increased by two years by eating nuts regularly—one handful (or about a quarter of a cup) five or more days a week. Just that one simple and delicious act alone may extend your life.
Image Credit: Creatas Images / Thinkstock. This image has been modified.
Popular Videos for Nuts
All Videos for Nuts
Are Avocados Good for You?
The nutritional benefits of guacamole extend beyond just the nutrients avocados themselves contain.
Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen Checklist
In my book How Not to Die I center my recommendations around a Daily Dozen checklist of all the things I try to fit into my daily routine.
Avocados Lower Small Dense LDL Cholesterol
What are the effects of oatmeal, walnuts, extra virgin olive oil, and avocados on LDL cholesterol size?
Are Avocados Good for Your Cholesterol?
Can guacamole lower your cholesterol as well as other whole-food fat sources such as nuts, or is it just avocado industry spin?
Lycopene Supplements vs. Prostate Cancer
High doses of lycopene—the red pigment in tomatoes—were put to the test to see if it could prevent precancerous prostate lesions from turning into full-blown cancer.
The Best Food for Fibroids
Women with uterine fibroids should consider adding green tea to their daily diet, as a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled interventional trial suggests it may help as well as surgery.
Is it Worth Getting Annual Health Check-Ups?
What are the risks and benefits of getting an annual check-up from your doctor?
Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen Checklist
In my book How Not to Die, I center my recommendations around a Daily Dozen checklist of all the things I try to fit into my daily routine.
How to Reduce Your TMAO Levels
Should we be concerned about high-choline plant foods, such as broccoli, producing the same toxic TMAO that results from eating high-choline animal foods, such as eggs?
What About Coconuts, Coconut Milk, & Coconut Oil MCTs?
Do the medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil, and the fiber in flaked coconut, counteract the negative effects on cholesterol and artery function?
Arsenic in Rice Milk, Rice Krispies, & Brown Rice Syrup
I recommend people switch away from using rice milk.
The Effects of Avocados & Red Wine on Meal-Induced Inflammation
Whole plant sources of sugar and fat can ameliorate some of the postprandial inflammation caused by the consumption of refined carbs and meat.