The so-called junk food that can save your life

My report in the March issue of Insiders’ Cures about the mainstream’s misguided recommendations for heart health might make you feel like saying “nuts” to your cardiologist. But she or he should actually be recommending nuts to you—at least according to an important new research review.

Although they may still be considered junk food by some ill-informed nutritionists because of their fat content, nuts are very high per ounce in vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. But while eating nuts has long been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, data on other health benefits had not been systematically evaluated…until now.

Researchers reviewed 20 different studies on the links between nut consumption and heart disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality.1

And the results are impressive. Amazingly, the researchers estimate that approximately 4.4 million premature deaths worldwide each year could be attributable to not eating enough nuts.

Another dietary recommendation the government got wrong

In recent years, the large number of cases of cardiovascular disease and deaths in the overall population have made it easier for researchers to find strong evidence for nuts’ heart-health benefits.

Of course, it took considerable time and trouble for the FDA to accept this obvious evidence. Back in 2010, as I reported, the agency refused to allow walnut growers to claim on their product labels the scientific truth that nut consumption protects the heart. The nut growers sued the FDA for permission to tell the truth—and lost.

But the evidence for nuts’ heart-health benefits continues to pour in—now extending to other health benefits as well. Which leads me to the new research review.

Nut consumption lowers overall deaths by 22%

The review revealed quite a list of benefits for peanuts and tree nuts such as almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts.

Just 1 ounce a day of these nuts (basically a handful) reduced the risk of heart disease by 29%, and stroke by 9%.

Consumption also reduced total cancers by 15%, dementia by 35%, diabetes by 39%, respiratory disease deaths by 52%, and kidney disease by 27%.

And a single ounce of nuts a day lowered overall premature deaths by an amazing 22%.

While nuts’ heart health benefits have always been impressive, the drastic reductions in dementia, diabetes, and kidney and respiratory diseases are even more impressive—now that they have finally been tallied.

How to easily add nuts to your diet

Nuts make a convenient, healthy snack any time of day. Take a bag of shelled nuts in your pocket to work, or when you go out, to fight hunger. Add them to your breakfast oatmeal, yogurt, or cottage cheese. They’re also great in fresh salads, in many vegetable and meat dishes, and with blueberries and other fruit for a healthy dessert.

A little salt and natural spices go a long way with these tasty treats. You can add your own spices like red chili pepper, curry, black pepper, or herbs for a little extra zest. Cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg are delicious on almonds. And for added interest, exercise, and entertainment, buy nuts in the shell and crack them to extract the meat.

If you don’t like raw nuts, you can get them roasted. But do not eat nuts with added sugars—like the so-called honey roasted nuts, or with an artificial ingredient called maltodextrin, which is just a disguised form of sugar.

While nuts can be a little expensive, I find most “discount” brands also contain artificial ingredients. One exception is Planters nuts, which tend to only have a little salt—which is all right in moderation.

With all of these benefits, I’d have to be nuts not to recommend these dietary delights for virtually every aspect of your health year round.


1“Nut consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer, all-cause and cause-specific mortality: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies.” BMC Med. 2016 Dec 5;14(1):207.