Supermarket superfood shown to reduce chance of death

Bowls filled with peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts and other kinds of nuts

This superfood is readily available in all supermarkets and most food shops (Image: Getty)

It’s the simple everyday food readily available in Tesco, Asda, Aldi, and almost any food shop you go into.

But your simple bag of supermarket-bought nuts is hiding a wealth of health benefits that, according to some studies and scientists, could even help prolong your life.

Of course, we are talking plain nuts here – not those covered in sugar or coated in flavourings. You can read what happened when one reporter cut out sugar and ultra-processed food for six months and significantly increased his nut intake here.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that “as compared with participants who did not eat nuts, those who consumed nuts seven or more times per week had a 20% lower death rate”.

It said: ” Inverse associations were observed for most major causes of death, including heart disease, cancer, and respiratory diseases. Results were similar for peanuts and tree nuts, and the inverse association persisted across all subgroups.”

The study covered 76,000 women and 42,000 men and assessed how many nuts they ate at the start of the study then updated every 2 to 4 years.

The study acknowledged that it was not possible to conclude that nut consumption had a direct “cause and effect” relationship with an earlier or later death. However, it also pointed out that the study followed others with similar findings and said it was ” consistent with a wealth of existing observational and clinical-trial data in supporting the health benefits of nut consumption for many chronic diseases”.

Why are nuts so good for you?

Speaking on the Zoe podcast in 2023, Dr Sarah Berry, an associate professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at King’s College London, said nuts “contain so many great nutrients — they contain fibre, they contain vitamin E, magnesium, selenium. Nuts are also very high in fat, but they’re particularly high in monounsaturated fats, which we know are the healthy type of fats”.

She added: “Nuts do lots of great things that help our heart health. So in particular, nuts can decrease our bad LDL cholesterol and they can also decrease our blood triglyceride concentrations. And this means that nuts might help to lower the risk of both heart disease and stroke.

“In addition, nuts also contain bioactives, and these are tiny molecules that have lots of really special roles to play in the body. For example, some have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and a great example is polyphenols.”

She went on to explain that these are thought to protect our cells from damage caused by a build-up of cholesterol and the processes which can lead to heart disease and strokes.

Nuts’ impact on inflammation

Dr Berry added: “We see lots of different types of nuts, like walnuts, almonds, and pistachios, if you eat over a long period, a portion of these nuts a day, you have a reduction in many… different types of inflammatory measures.

“We also know that… they improve insulin sensitivity [and] they also improve your blood vessel function. And finally, there’s some evidence as well emerging that nuts might even prevent memory loss as we age. Although this is still at quite the early stages of research.

“We haven’t even mentioned the fibre. That’s another great property of nuts. And there’s compelling evidence linking high fibre intake to reducing the risk of many chronic diseases.”

What is the nutritional profile of nuts

Different nuts have different properties, of course, but according to BBC Good Food, a 30g serving of mixed nuts provides:

  • 174Kcal /722KJ
  • 7.1g protein
  • 14.7g fat
  • 8.2g mono-unsaturated fat
  • 3.5g poly-unsaturated fat
  • 3.5g carbohydrate
  • 1.9g fibre
  • 28mg calcium
  • 67mg magnesium

Five health benefits of nuts

1. They are rich in protective antioxidants

Nuts contain plant defence chemicals called polyphenols which have a protective effect in the body. BBC Good Food reports that a study looking at the protective effect of walnuts and almonds suggested “their polyphenol content increased antioxidant capacity which in turn helped to protect cells from damage”.

2. Helps support your gut health

Nuts are a good source of fibre (almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios and pecans are among the best for this). The polyphenols in nuts help the good bacteria that live there and scientists say our gut health has a major impact on our overall health.

3. Can help weight management

Although nuts are high in fats, these are not harmful fats. So, eaten at reasonable levels, nuts can actually help weight management. In fact, the New England Journal of Medicine study referenced above said ” increased nut intake was associated with less weight gain”. It said that other studies had also shown “increased nut consumption was associated with reduced waist circumference, less weight gain and a decreased risk of obesity”.

4. Healthy fats

So while nearly all nuts are high fat (chestnuts are not) the types of fat have proven benefits to health, typically being low in saturated fat, with higher levels of the heart-friendly mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats. Walnuts have the highest content of the omega 3 essential fatty acid.

5. They are good for your heart

As referenced above, “consuming nuts helps maintain the health of the lining of the arteries, balances cholesterol and reduces the build-up of deposits called plaques, while also lowering the risk of blood clots”, BBC Good Food reports.

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