Eat Walnuts and Almonds to Improve Your Health
Nuts can have a powerful impact on your health.
Nuts are the most common snack among centenarians in the Blue Zones — the places around the world where people live the longest — where they eat two handfuls of nuts per day.
Recently a couple of studies have pointed to two types of nuts with especially potent health benefits.
The first study, published last week in the journal Nutrients, analyzed data from 67,014 women and 26,326 men over a period of 20 years. The study found that eating walnuts was associated with a longer life expectancy. Specifically, a greater life expectancy at age 60 (1.30 years in women and 1.26 years in men) was observed among people who ate more than 5 servings a week of walnuts compared to those who did not eat any walnuts. A serving size was defined as 28 grams (1 ounce).
Eating walnuts was shown to reduce all-cause mortality, especially the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Consuming walnuts more than 5 times per week cut the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality by 25%, relative to non-consumers. This could be explained because walnuts contain a high amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), compared to other nuts. ALA is a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid, which has been shown to improve blood lipids and endothelial function. Walnuts have also been proven to protect against obesity and oxidative stress.
Another recent study, published in June in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, points to the health benefits of almonds. Among 219 adolescents and young adults ages 16–25, eating 56 grams of almonds daily — roughly two handfuls, approximately 50 total almonds — significantly decreased blood sugar, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol in just 90 days. The benefits of almonds could be attributed to their high quantity of monounsaturated fat and antioxidant content. Other studies have shown beneficial health effects from eating just 20 grams of almonds.
Taken together, when looking at the Blue Zones data plus the results of these two studies, it would be advised to consume two handfuls of nuts per day. While all nuts likely have health benefits, walnuts and almonds are two of the best.
More is not necessarily better. A 1-ounce serving of walnuts contains 185 calories and the same size serving of almonds has 170 calories. That means two servings adds up to 355 calories, roughly 15% of a typical daily diet.
For optimal health benefits, choose raw or dry-roasted nuts, without added sugar, salt, or oil.