How would you like to lower your risk of dying, from any cause whatsoever, by 20% over the next ten years? According to a recently published report in the New England Journal of Medicine, all you have to do add some nuts to your daily diet.
The researchers from Harvard Medical School carefully examined dietary data accumulated from 76,464 women and 42,498 men from 1980 to 2010, and that is what they found: people who ate nuts daily were 20% less likely to die from any cause over the years of the study. Even eating nuts once a week appeared to lower the risk of death during the study by 11%.
They found that the nut eaters also less likely to suffer from heart and respiratory diseases, as well as cancer. More intriguing, even though nuts are considered a high-calorie food, there is strong evidence that eating nuts is also a good way to loose weight, and lower your risk of developing diabetes.
Nuts are so healthy because they pack lots of powerful elements into a small package. According to the Harvard researchers, nuts are “rich in unsaturated fatty acids, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and many other bioactive substances, such as phenolic antioxidants and phytosterols.”
But only 30 grams of nuts can contain about 200 calories, and almost 80% of those calories come from fat, so how can they be so good for you? First, most of the fat in nuts is the healthiest type of fat—the monounsaturated type—that helps raise your level of “good” (HDL type) cholesterol in your blood, without increasing the harmful LDL cholesterol levels.
Second, nuts are packed with fiber, which also helps lower cholesterol levels, and keeps blood sugar levels from rising too much after meals. The fiber and the fats in nuts give them a high index of “satiety”; meaning, they are likely to fill you up if taken as a snack or before a meal. Nut eaters appear to consume less calories overall.
Nuts are full of antioxidants which help protect against damage from free radicals that are constantly being formed in our body. You might think of free radicals as rogue molecules that can irritate our normal cells into forming cancer cells, and, in our blood vessels, stimulate cholesterol plaques and obstructions.
And nuts are packed with protein, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids. Many types of fish are full of these fatty acids as well, but nuts are probably the best plant-based source of this substance. (Much recent research is pointing to the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in maintaining a healthy brain as we age.)
All types of nuts seem to give these health benefits: almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, walnuts, and even peanuts. Of course there are some nutritional differences between nuts and more details can be found here in the journal Nutrients.
So, if you are looking for a good snack food, something to replace your unhealthy foods, think about nuts. By filling you up, they may help you lose weight over time, and you will be getting a food full of protein and many other quality nutrients. Buy the freshest nuts available, don’t overdue the quantity, and always choose the unsalted variety!
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