Why consuming 20 grams of nuts a day is good for you

13 December 2016

Why consuming 20 grams of nuts a day is good for you

Mince pies, chocolate and pigs in blankets are just some of the scrumptious treats enjoyed over the festive period. However, it may come as surprise to learn that there’s one seasonal snack that’s avoided this year’s naughty list: the humble nut.

A study from Imperial College London has found that people who consume at least 20 grams of nuts a day are less likely to develop potentially fatal conditions. But why?

A look at the numbers

The research, pioneered by Dagfinn Aune, found that eating around 20 grams of nuts a day could help to reduce the risk of heart disease by nearly 30 per cent, and even help reduce the risk of cancer by 15 per cent. The study also found that the risk of premature death fell by 22 per cent when people consumed tree nuts, such as hazelnuts and walnuts.

But the health benefits don’t stop there. It’s believed that the same amount of nuts – around a handful – helps to drastically reduce the risk of dying from a respiratory disease.

Co-author of the study, Dagfinn said:

“In nutritional studies, so far much of the research has been on the big killers such as heart diseases, stroke and cancer, but now we're starting to see data for other diseases.

“We found a consistent reduction in risk across many different diseases, which is a strong indication that there is a real underlying relationship between nut consumption and different health outcomes. It's quite a substantial effect for such a small amount of food.”

The research also shows that nuts may help to reduce the risk of diabetes by nearly 40 per cent.

What’s inside?

Analysing data from more than 800,000 participants from around the world, Mr Aune found that consuming a combination of different tree nuts helped to form a healthy diet. While hazelnuts and walnuts are known for being high in fibre, they’re also packed with heart-healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and protein. He explains:

“Nuts and peanuts are high in fibre, magnesium and polyunsaturated fats - nutrients that are beneficial for cutting cardiovascular disease risk and which can reduce cholesterol levels.

“Some nuts, particularly walnuts and pecan nuts, are also high in antioxidants, which can fight oxidative stress and possibly reduce cancer risk.

“Even though nuts are quite high in fat, they are also high in fibre and protein, and there is some evidence that suggests nuts might actually reduce your risk of obesity over time.”

The study goes on to conclude:

“In 2013, an estimated 4.4 million deaths may be attributable to a nut intake below 20 grams per day in North and South America, Europe, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific.”

A word of warning

Although research points to the health benefits of eating nuts by themselves, it’s worth noting that when they’re topped with sugar or salt, they can quickly have the reverse effect. In fact, the study suggests that added sugars in peanut butter can counteract the healthy properties of peanuts:

“…it is possible that the added sugar or salt in peanut butter could counteract any beneficial effects of plain peanuts,” says the research from Aune.

This is also true of eating excessive quantities of nuts, which may contribute to diabetes, high blood pressure and even sleep apnoea.

Although weight loss procedures are available, you can help manage your body mass by enjoying tree nuts in their raw form, avoiding high-fat toppings.

Do you feel the health benefits of eating nuts? Is there a particular nut that you make sure you eat? We’d love to hear you thoughts over on Twitter.