Consumption of nuts has been largely maligned by mainstream health professionals and the media for decades due to the high calorie and fat content. As we enter an era of enlightened understanding about the role of dietary fats and macronutrients in the promotion or degradation of health and weight management, forward-thinking scientists and practitioners rely on extensive research demonstrating the importance of healthy fats in their natural state to prevent heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative conditions.
Researchers publishing the result of their work in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition have found that eating tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts) was associated with higher levels of high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (good HDL cholesterol) and lower levels of C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation which can lead to a variety of chronic diseases including heart disease.
Tree Nuts Shown to Lower Chronic Disease Risk and Helps Prevent Obesity
Lead study author, Dr. Carol O’Neil from the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center also observed “One of the more interesting findings was the fact that tree nut consumers had lower body weight, as well as lower body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference compared to non-consumers.” The scientists determined that those consuming tree nuts as part of their regular diet averaged slightly over 4 pounds lower body weight or nearly one inch smaller waist circumference.
The study centered on a cohort of 13,292 men and women participating in the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Tree nut consumers were defined as those individuals consuming more than one-quarter ounce each day as determined from 24-hour recall data and questionnaires.
Eat a Handful of Tree Nuts Each Day to Lower Chronic Disease Risk
Tree nut consumption was associated with a five percent lower incidence of metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors known to increase the risk for coronary artery disease, stroke and type II diabetes. Researchers further noted that the nut-consuming group exhibited a lower prevalence of abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high fasting glucose (blood sugar) levels and low high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol levels.
Tree nuts consist of largely monounsaturated fats that are known to promote heart health, and have been shown to be of critical importance for optimal brain function. Dr. O’Neil concluded “Tree nuts should be an integral part of a healthy diet and encouraged by health professionals.” Nutritionists recommend eating 1 ½ ounces each day of raw, unheated, non-salted tree nuts to lower chronic disease risk and assist weight management goals.