Time to Get Nutty . . . For Your Own Good!

assortment of tasty nuts, close up

By: Sasha de Beausset 

Whether you have chestnuts roasting on an open fire, or if you go around the corner to get a bag at the grocery store, it might be time to start eating more nuts!

Nuts have been a part of the human diet since the beginning of our history. According to the Nutcracker Museum site,

Recently there was an archeological dig in Israel where researchers found evidence showing that nuts formed a major part of man’s diet 780,000 years ago.  Seven varieties of nuts along with stone tools to crack open the nuts were found buried deep in a bog. The nuts were wild almond, prickly water lily, water chestnut and 2 varieties of both acorns and pistachios.

Fast forward hundreds of thousands of years later, as hunting and gathering has “gone out of style”, and humans eat much fewer nuts than they used to. With the rise of processed foods, and dozens of snack options with minimum work involved, chips and dip just seem more appetizing.

However, there are plenty of reasons you should be eating more nuts. Not only will they get you in the holiday mood, they will also offer tons of health benefits. . .

1. Nuts are Packed with Nutritional Value

When it comes to nuts, you are really getting a bang for your buck. None of this “empty calories” stuff. Nuts are a great source of unsaturated fatty acids, fiber, vitamins (like vitamin E), minerals (like iron). Together, all of these nutrients promote healthy organ function, healthy skin, and help fight off illness so you can really enjoy the holidays.

2. Nuts Help to Prevent Heart Disease and Stroke

Nuts are chock full of monounsaturated fat, including omega-3 fatty acids, which lower total cholesterol with a particularly powerful effect on “bad” LDL cholesterol. Nuts also have phytosterols, which are plant compounds that also lower cholesterol and have potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on the body. These help to break down buildup on your artery walls, which can block healthy blood circulation.

3. Nuts Help Prevent Cancer

The antioxidants in nuts, particularly walnuts, called polyphenols, are powerful cancer fighters. Antoxidants help to fight off free radicals, which can cause cell damage – one of the reasons cancer can arise.

The types of cancer nuts may help prevent include: breast cancer, colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and ovarian cancer.

4. Nuts Boost Brain Health

Remember those omega-3 fatty acids mentioned before? Well, in addition to promoting circulation, they also promote brain health. Nuts are also full of antioxidants which help to slow down or prevent cognitive decline that happens with age, and could even reduce the risk of brain-related diseases, like Alzheimer’s.

5. Nuts Help Reduce Overall Mortality

A recent study found that eating a handful of nuts everyday can go way beyond the benefits described above. They may help reduce overall mortality rates. After analyzing a range of existing studies, researchers from the Imperial College London and the Norwegian University of Science determined that as little as 20 grams of nuts a day (about a handful) can significantly reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease, diabetes, and infectious diseases!

Note: Sasha de Beausset is a Nutritional Anthropologist with a B.A. from Tufts University, an M.Sc. in Food and Nutrition from the University of San Carlos, and is currently in the process of becoming a licensed nutritionist. She has been awarded for her academic writing and research, and she has been blogging on food, health, and nutrition for over four years. The copyrights on the article belong to the author. The responsibility for the opinions expressed in the article belongs exclusively to the author.