5 ways nuts reduce cancer risk, heart disease and more

If you’re trying to live a healthier life, you don’t need to make drastic, sweeping changes to see results.

In fact, making extreme changes in your diet and lifestyle often sets you up for failure because you have a hard time sticking to them. It’s the small, simple changes that have the biggest impact, like taking a daily probiotic, going for a 20-minute walk or drinking more water.

I like to think of it as the “baby steps” method to good health. And if you want to give it a try, there’s one simple daily habit you should adopt first. It requires practically no effort on your part, yet it could significantly slash your risk for heart disease, cancer and more. In fact, it’s so easy and so powerful, you should start today…

All you have to do is go to your pantry and grab a handful of nuts. If you don’t have any nuts, that’s okay. I’m sure you’ll want to run to the store and get some after hearing this…

The nutty secret to great health

Researchers from the Imperial College London and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology reviewed the scientific data on the health benefits of nuts, and determined that eating 20 grams of nuts per day (roughly a handful) can:

  1. Cut your risk of coronary heart disease by nearly 30 percent
  2. Cut your risk of cancer by 15 percent
  3. Cut your risk of dying from respiratory disease by 50 percent
  4. Cut your risk of dying from diabetes by 40 percent
  5. Cut your risk of premature death by 22 percent

Researchers analyzed 29 studies on the health effects of nuts, and these studies included about 819,000 people. The people in the studies ate a wide range of nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts — the nut that stops colon cancer, pecans and even peanuts), but the results were the same…  a decreased risk of disease.

“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,” said the study’s co-author Dagfinn Aune from the School of Public Health at Imperial.

The right combination of nutrition

So why can such a small dietary change have such a big impact on your health? Well, researchers believe it’s because nuts are packed with nutrients like fiber, magnesium and polyunsaturated fats. All of these nutrients have been linked to cardiovascular health and healthy cholesterol levels, among other things.

Some nuts, like walnuts and pecans, also contain a lot of antioxidants, which are known to reduce cancer risk. And even though nuts are high in fat, they actually reduce your risk of obesity (and diabetes) because they contain healthy fat combined with fiber and protein.

But before you go nuts for nuts and start eating them at every meal, you should know that more isn’t necessarily better. Eating a handful of nuts per day will cut your risk of disease, but eating more than a handful won’t reduce your disease risk more. So for now, stick to a handful (or two) of nuts per day. It’s the simplest way to set yourself up for a disease-free future.

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  1. Aune, et al. “Nut consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer, all-cause and cause-specific mortality: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies.” BMC Medicine, 2016.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.