How Nuts & Seeds can Help Prevent Disease
The Question: How many many servings of nuts do you have per WEEK?
How Your Response Matches Up
RiskAverse Conditions Affected
Coronary Artery Disease
Diabetes Type 2
Understanding the Importance of Nuts & Seeds to Your Diet
Nuts and seeds have some controversy surrounding how healthy they are, due mostly to the belief that they are packed in calories. Many people think that makes them unhealthy, but that is entirely false. In fact, at the right amounts, nuts and seeds are some of the most nutritionally diverse foods on the planet, since they are packed with vitamins, minerals and healthy fats which offer a wide variety of health benefits. The key is to consume the proper amount to prevent overconsumption. Typically, you should consume about 1/4 cup of nuts or 2 tablespoons of seeds per serving between 3 and 5 times per week, while also aiming for unsalted/light salted varieties. When practicing proper intakes, nut and seed consumption has been shown to help reduce cancer risk, regulate blood pressure, prevent heart disease, and much more. So what is it about nuts that promote these benefits?
Healthy Nut and Seed Consumption and the Associated Health Outcomes
Nuts/Seeds and Cancer
Generally speaking, those that consumed high amounts had a 10% reduction in overall cancer risk compared to those that did not eat any. (1) The most potent effects were seen in tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, macadamias, etc.).
- Breast Cancer – High consumption of peanuts, walnuts, and almonds have shown strong protective effects. (2)
- Colorectal Cancer – Nuts and seeds’ best effects have been shown in gastrointestinal cancers, like colorectal. The nutritional components offer anti-inflammatory effects, while the fiber serves as a healthy source for your gut bacteria by boosting immune function. (1)
- Lung Cancer – As much as a 25% reduced incidence of lung cancer was shown in those with high intakes, regardless of smoking status. The reason why is unknown as of now. (3)
The highest consumptions were typically seen at one serving a day, but reductions were shown at as little as 3 servings. Any more than daily may be a bit too much with caloric and salt intake, so be wary of consistently consuming more than one serving per day.
Nuts/Seeds and Chronic Conditions
Nuts and seeds have been shown to improve both metabolic and cardiovascular biomarkers of disease.
- Hypertension- Hypertension affects over half of adults. It is a major risk factor for diabetes and heart disease, and is often preventable- making it extremely important to address. Initial evidence shows that unsalted nuts have the potential to mitigate hypertension risk. (6) The high amounts of potassium, magnesium, and calcium are believed to be one of the main reasons.
- Diabetes Type 2 – Nuts are a great resource for diabetes prevention because they are low in sugar and high in fiber. Nut consumption improved insulin resistance in pre-diabetic patients. The best effects were in tree nuts (4), but flax, chia, and sunflower seeds showed similar effects.
- Coronary Artery Disease – Nuts are the best source of copper you can get, a deficiency of which is strongly tied to heart disease. (5) Sterols, plant compounds that disrupt cholesterol intake, are found in abundance in nuts and seeds. This disruption helps lower LDL cholesterol without affecting the “good” HDL levels.
It is important to note the positive results are from those that consumed unsalted nuts and seeds.
Nuts and Seeds are Great for Weight Control
A major factor increasing Americans’ risk for these diseases is obesity. Obesity is often caused by regular overeating, which leads to weight gain. Nuts and seeds offer both protein and fiber, which are essential to both feeling and staying full. Consuming nuts during a meal can help slow digestion, thus keeping you full for longer. As a snack, they can fill you quickly, thus ensuring you will not be constantly craving more throughout the day.
In a "Nut-Shell"
It does not take a lot of nuts each week to benefit from their health effects. All it takes is one serving 3 to 5 times a week to significantly reduce your disease risk. Too few and you limit your benefits, but too many and you may be causing weight gain. Therefore, stick to the rule of no more than a few handfuls a few times per week.
Salted nuts can also reverse some of these positive effects, such as blood pressure regulation. Salted nuts are HIGH in sodium- one of the major causes of hypertension. Therefore, consider unsalted or lightly salted. Alternatively, buy a bag of salted and one unsalted to mix together.
Each nut and seed is different. If you have a few favorites that’s great, but be sure to enjoy them in moderation. That being said, the higher the variation in your consumption, the wider you can cast your net on potential health benefits.
Learn More About Our Favorites
19 of our favorite nuts and seeds broken down by nutritional content and associated health benefits.
Assess Your Risk
Nuts and seeds are one of over 200 risk factors we have found that affect disease risk. Learn your risk today.