A new study looked at how tree nut consumption impacted disease rates. Eating just 20g (about three tablespoons) of nuts per day protects us from cancer, heart disease and other diseases.
The Imperial College of London study, published in the journal BMC Medicine, was an analysis of 29 studies on nut consumption and health. In all, it looked at data from over 800,000 participants. While there was some variation in results, all populations had reduced disease risk when they added nuts to their diets.
The study focused on tree nuts, so if you want to get these benefits, that’s what you should reach for. Common tree nuts include:
- Brazil nuts
- macadamia nuts
- pine nuts
You can see a complete list of tree nuts here. The study authors also found that peanuts had the same protective properties, though they aren’t technically tree nuts—they’re legumes.
Study co-author Dagfinn Aune said they think that nuts’ protective properties come from their dense nutritional content. She explains, “Nuts and peanuts are high in fibre, magnesium, and polyunsaturated fats— nutrients that are beneficial for cutting cardiovascular disease risk and which can reduce cholesterol levels.”
They found that tree nuts reduce the risk of an array of diseases:
- cardiovascular disease
- all-cause mortality
- mortality from respiratory disease
Aune says, “We found a consistent reduction in risk across many different diseases, which is a strong indication that there is a real underlying relationship between nut consumption and different health outcomes. It’s quite a substantial effect for such a small amount of food.”
If you’re already eating the recommended three tablespoons per day, though, adding more nuts to your diet probably won’t give you any additional benefit. That 20 grams seems to be the sweet spot, from the evidence that they analyzed. Adding more nuts probably doesn’t hurt, but it doesn’t compound the health benefits.
Looking to add more nuts to your diet? The easiest way is to grab a handful as a snack, but there are lots of other ways to incorporate nuts into your day. Sprinkle some hazelnuts or walnuts into your oatmeal or yogurt in the morning. Add cashews or pine nuts to your next pasta dish or stir fry. You can also use raw, soaked cashews to make pureed soups and sauces creamier without dairy.