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A new study has found that nuts are associated with healthier eating habits and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Alexandra Bergam/Stocksy
  • New research suggests that people who eat nuts have healthier eating habits compared to people who don’t eat nuts or who eat other types of nuts.
  • The results indicate that people who eat nuts in early adulthood may have healthier body composition and reduced cardiovascular risk factors as they age.
  • Nuts contain many nutrients that promote healthy living. Unlike other types of nuts, walnuts are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids like alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

Nuts are a powerhouse of nutrition and an excellent source of polyunsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants.

A recent study, published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, comparing nut consumption to non-consumption. Researchers analyzed data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, which included subjects’ 20-year dietary history as well as their cardiovascular risk factor profile during a 30-year follow-up. year.

The research, which was partially funded by the California Walnut Commission, shows that participants who ate nuts early in life were more likely to adopt healthier eating habits and be more active.

These results suggest that incorporating nuts into your diet could often act as a catalyst for developing healthy lifestyle habits. Nut consumption in young adulthood is also associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular problems later in life.

Principal Investigator Lyn M. SteffenPhD, MPH, RD, associate professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, said the new study demonstrates how eating nuts could improve body composition and cardiovascular health.

“The main objective of this study was to determine whether nut eaters compared to non-nut eaters (other nut eaters or no nut eaters) had a better diet and a better risk factor profile. cardiovascular risk over 30 years of follow-up,” Steffen told Healthline.

“We found that nut eaters had better body composition and certain cardiovascular risk factors as they aged.”

According to Steffen, the study results show that people who ate nuts had better eating habits overall.

“Our study showed that over 20 years of follow-up, nut consumers (compared to non-consumers) had a healthier diet – including more fruits, vegetables and less processed meat, added sugar and fats. saturated,” Steffen said. .

Many studies have shown that consuming nuts can provide health benefits such as:

Unlike other nuts, walnuts are a source of heart-healthy food. n-3 fatty acidsmore commonly known as omega-3 fatty acids.

“Walnuts are an excellent source of n-3 plant fatty acids — more specifically alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) — and other antioxidants,” Steffen says. “Other nuts are also nutritious and contain fatty acids and antioxidants, but other types of nuts do not contain ALA, plant-based n-3 fatty acids.”

Nuts are also loaded with other nutrients that contribute to health and longevity.

“Plus, nuts contain many health-promoting nutrients — fiber, manganese, magnesium, copper, iron, calcium, zinc, potassium, vitamin B6, folate, and thiamin,” Steffen explained.

In fact, it’s possible to get enough ALA in your diet just from nuts.

“Walnuts are extremely high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated (omega-3) fats from ALA – the plant source of ALA,” says Dana Ellis Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, senior clinical dietitian at UCLA Medical Center, assistant professor UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and author of “Recipe for survival.”

“1 ounce of nuts contains more than 1.5 [times] the amount of omega-3s suggested by ALA, as stated by the Institutes of Medicine (IoM), and we can turn some of that ALA into DHA and EPA in our bodies, which is why IoM doesn’t has only one recommended intake level for ALA. ”

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that eating nuts, including walnuts, can be part of a healthy diet.

According to Steffen, a 1-ounce serving per day of nuts (about a handful) has been shown in several intervention studies to provide health benefits.

In the CARDIA observational study, the average serving consumed was approximately 3/4 ounce of nuts per day.

You can also increase your intake of omega-3s with other nuts and seeds to reap the heart-healthy benefits associated with polyunsaturated fatty acids.

“You can alternate walnuts with other omega-3-rich foods, such as chia seeds, flaxseeds (ground), or flaxseed oil,” Hunnes suggests.

If nuts aren’t for you, other nuts and seeds can still offer many health benefits.

“For those managing nut allergies and looking for alternatives, it’s always best to consult with your doctor or dietitian and discuss which foods fit your lifestyle,” Steffen explained.

And while you can’t eat just any type of nut, there are plenty of other food sources that contain similar nutrients.

“Foods high in plant n-3 fatty acids include flaxseeds, chia seeds, leafy greens and legumes,” Steffen says.

“Of course fatty fish (salmon, tuna, trout, halibut) are excellent sources of marine n-3 fatty acids.”

There is a growing body of evidence showing the positive effects of incorporating nuts into your diet. Compared to other types of nuts, walnuts are unique because they are packed with plant-based n-3 fatty acids like ALA.

People who eat nuts early in life have been shown to have better eating habits, healthy body composition, and reduced cardiovascular risk factors as they age.

Either way, it’s never too late to start eating nuts to reap some of the health benefits. A handful of nuts a day is enough.

If you have nut allergies, whole foods such as leafy greens, chia seeds, and legumes contain similar nutrients. Still, you may want to talk to your doctor before making any dietary changes, especially if you have a chronic medical condition.