Today, we can confidently say that nuts are good for you. However, as recently as twenty years ago we probably couldn’t have. In the 1980s, consumption of nuts in the United States started to slide downward. There had been so much fear generated regarding the relationship between fat and heart disease, that people started turning away from any food that contained fat.
Being that nuts were high in fat, they earned a bad reputation based on what we knew at the time.
The Nurses Health Study was a very important influence on the nut market revival in the 1990s. At Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, researchers followed the diet of eighty-six thousand nurses. They found that nurses who ate five ounces of nuts per week, had one-third fewer heart attacks than those that didn’t. Even those who ate nuts only one to four times a week decreased their risk of heart attacks compared to the non-nut-eating population.
Further study of the Boston data also shows that the risk of type 2 diabetes in women shows a substantial reduction by including nuts in the diet.
A study of forty thousand postmenopausal women showed that the more nuts they ate, the lower the risk of heart attack. Eating nuts five times a week, according to that study, will cut your heart attack risk in half. Even eating nuts once a week led to a 25 percent reduction, and the nuts seem to lower the bad LDL cholesterol without affecting the good HDL.
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Studies on Olive Oil, Almonds, and Dairy Products.
Another comparative study of three diets, one based on olive oil, another on almonds, and the third on dairy products showed that the almond diet gave the best results. A Loma Linda study of walnuts showed that a diet with 20 percent of daily calories coming from walnuts reduced heart problems. More good news for the walnut growers – a new study in France showed that “beneficial blood lipid levels were associated with walnut consumption.” Another set of trials in Europe showed that diets with a large amount of almonds reduced total cholesterol including “bad cholesterol.”
Calorie Content in Nuts
In spite of these studies, many people were still reluctant to eat nuts because of their calorie content. As caloric as they are, nuts won’t necessarily make you gain weight. Nuts satisfy. Eating just an ounce or so of nuts takes the edge off of hunger, so you tend to eat less overall.
Other experts have made the case for nuts’ ability to fight not only heart disease, but cancer as well. Specifically cited were two studies that showed a decreased risk of prostate cancer among men forty-five to seventy-four. Their numbers improved when they consumed nuts. Researcher Paul Davis at UC Davis warns that much more is to be learned before we use tree nuts as medicine. He is cautiously optimistic in the use of raw nuts to diminish the chances of cancer.
Allergies and Nuts
There is one essential drawback, and that’s that three million Americans are allergic to peanuts. Many more than tree nuts, which also trigger allergic reactions in thousands of people. Far less people feel dangerous allergic reaction effects from tree nuts than from peanuts. An allergy can manifest itself in a number of ways. Wheezing, sneezing, and difficulty breathing to name a few. There can also be hives and intestinal problems. At their worst, allergens can be fatal, triggering what is called anaphylactic shock. Most people who are allergic to nuts already know and take the necessary precautions.
In conclusion, unless you have an allergy to them, eat nuts! Reduce the risk of heart attacks, eat less overall and enjoy one of nature’s most well-rounded and delicious foods.