Sure–you know that avoiding smoking, exercising regularly and eating lots of veggies and fruits will help you live longer. But can one simple snack extend your life?
Turns out that if the snack consists of different types of nuts the answer is probably a solid yes. The benefits of nuts on our long-term health is well-documented. They protect your brain, they protect against diabetes and they strongly protect your heart. And the benefits are not isolated to a single type of nut–it seems like every time researchers look at a particular type of nut it shows a protective effect on whatever chronic disease that happens to be in the study.
However, there are a few very important factoids to take into account.
First, raw nuts are the best option. Absolutely, positively NO added oils. That means cottonseed oil, peanut oil and any other oil manufacturers try to stuff into the nut container. These added oils will completely counteract the benefits of the nuts. Personally, I buy bulk bags of almonds, pecans and walnuts from Costco because their prices on these 3 types of nuts is the lowest you can find. Then, when Sprouts has other types of nuts on sale, like cashews or hazelnuts, I add them to the mix. If I’m feeling really rich, I’ll splurge on a pound of macadamia nuts.
Next, I really don’t concern myself over added salt. The research linking low salt diets and chronic disease is very weak and likely is more due to the presence of high levels of sodium (and low potassium) in processed foods. Personally, however, I prefer to match my nuts with dark chocolate drops instead of salt to spruce up the experience.
Either way, the addition of nuts to your daily routine is a powerful one. But just how powerful? This particular study asked this very question. It looked at 17,184 residents of Spain over the course of 5 years to see if nut consumption had any effect on the participants risk of dying from any cause (all-cause mortality). Here’s what they found:
- Those participants who ate nuts at least twice per week had a 56% lower risk of dying when compared to non-nut consumers.
These are some pretty serious numbers.
This powerful effect of nuts is likely due to several factors present within nuts. First, they help you avoid snacking on other, less healthy, snacks. The fat present in nuts (polyunsaturated and monunsaturated) has consistently shown to protect your heart from damage. Lastly, they are an excellent source of gamma tocopherol–the powerhouse form of vitamin E that has been shown again and again to protect the brain and the heart.
Either way, if you are not already snacking on nuts during a typical week, it’s definitely time to start.