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Nuts May Be High-Fat, But They Are Protective When It Comes to Health

If you've become accustomed to thinking about nuts as high-fat, salty foods that are only going to cause you weight gain and health problems, you'll want to take a look at scientific research reviewed at the 2007 Nuts and Health Symposium held in Davis, California. In this review (published in The Journal of Nutrition), researchers from the United States, Canada, and Australia analyzed a wide variety of nut studies and came up with the following set of conclusions.

  1. You'll reduce your chances of getting cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes if you frequently include nuts in your diet. "Frequently" in this context means about 5 times per week. The amount should not be large, but somewhere in the vicinity of one ounce per serving.
  2. You'll benefit from the addition of nuts to your diet even if you already have type 2 diabetes. While the researchers found mixed evidence with respect to nuts and control of blood sugar in persons diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, they believed that the reduced risk of potential cardiovascular problems that can often occurs related to type 2 diabetes was plenty reason to encourage intake of nuts by type 2 diabetics. They also noted that in some studies, consumption of almonds or other nuts along with white bread (a high glycemic index food that is usually problematic for blood sugar levels) acted to lower some markers of oxidative stress. Because oxidative stress can mean unwanted damage to cells and blood vessels, this effect of nut consumption was regarded as desirable and beneficial.
  3. With 5 or more nut servings per week, you are likely to have healthy changes in your blood lipid levels. Subjects in research studies who consumed frequent servings of nuts saw improvement in their blood fats across the board. Nuts were associated with increases in HDL cholesterol, decreases in LDL cholesterol, and deceases in blood triglycerides. This combination of changes is widely regarded as desirable when it comes to your cardiovascular health.

    Applications for the Healthiest Way of Eating:

    At the World's Healthiest Foods, we've always drawn a distinction between high-quality fats contained in natural plant foods and low-quality fats contained in processed foods or extra fatty cuts of meat. Even though the percent calories from fat in nuts is often 80% or higher, and even though nuts should be considered as high-calorie foods, they are also nutrient-rich foods and unique in terms of health benefits. This latest review of the scientific evidence underscores the value of approaching high-fat foods like nuts in terms of their fat quality and trusting these foods to protect our health when consumed in reasonable amounts.

    Reference

    Jenkins DJA, Hu FB, Tapsell LC et al. Possible benefits of nuts in type 2 diabetes.

    The Journal of Nutrition 2008, 138(9): 1752S-1757S.