Although nuts were once demonized as a high calorie, fatty treat, a slew of studies in the last decade have thrown the idea nuts are unhealthy out the window. As it turns out, several studies show eating a handful of nuts a day can protect against cancer, many other health problems, and even extend your life.
Numerous studies show that nuts in general (walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts, even the unofficial nut, peanuts) have a protective effect, preventing some cancers from developing in the first place or helping people live longer even if they do develop cancer.
Why are Nuts so Protective?
Packed with tons of nutrients and minerals, nuts have many incredible properties. Not only can the protect against cancer, they are one of the best brain foods to protect memory, help people manage their weight, and also decrease your risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and gallstones. Although what makes them such an amazing superfood isn’t fully understood, researchers have some theories:
Nuts contain a specific type of vitamin E, tocopherols. Some studies suggest this type of vitamin E can prevent some forms of cancer such as lung, colon, and prostate cancer.
Many nuts have omega 3s, though walnuts often steal the spotlight since they have such a large quantity. In any case, studies suggest omega three fatty acids play a large role in preventing tumors from growing.
Nuts contain polyphenols, a type of antioxidant. Again, walnuts take the cake, with the highest amount of this type of antioxidant compared to other nuts, but also more than you could get from most fruits and vegetables. Since antioxidants also play a role in cancer prevention, this may be another reason nuts are so effective.
Just how effective are Nuts at Protecting Against Cancer?
Pretty effective. A Harvard study published in the British Journal of Cancer looking at 47,000 men over the course of 26 years found that those who ate a 1 oz. Serving of nuts five times a week or more were 34 percent less likely to die from prostate cancer.
Nuts may also help prevent some types of cancer in the first place. A small study by the University of Colima found that regularly eating nuts reduced the risk of breast cancer, and a separate Harvard study showed similar results. Actually, adolescents who ate two servings of nuts a week were 36 percent less likely to get breast cancer than their non-nut eating peers.
Another study in mice showed that walnuts, specifically, might help prevent cancer and slow tumor growth because of their high levels of ALA omega 3, though it’s hard to say if the same results transfer to humans.
Perhaps, even more, telling, people who eat nuts regularly are more likely to live longer. Analyzing data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which together contained over 100,000 people, researchers told the Harvard Gazette eating nuts five to six times a week reduced their risk of dying by 15 percent.
How to get the benefits
To reap the rewards of this nutty nutrition, you just need to start eating more nuts. Experts recommend eating 1 ounce, or about one handful, of nuts a day. The less processed, the better – choose unsalted nuts that don’t come with added oils.