Eating a healthy diet is a goal for many people to help them treat or prevent disease, improve exercise performance, or maintain a healthy body weight. If you pay attention to news about food and nutrition you have probably noticed that there is a great deal of controversy about what constitutes a healthy diet. It’s easy to find lists of foods to avoid and things to eat every day. Unfortunately, lists from different sources may not be the same or, worse, a food that is on one “never eat” list is on another “always eat” list.
There is a different approach you could take to plan the foundation for a truly health way to eat. Instead of focusing on what is different, think about what recommendations are shared among most “healthy” diets. Here is some diet advice that almost everyone agrees on. This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.
My Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week is about the health benefits of nuts. It is a follow-up to a blog post I wrote a few weeks ago. This isn’t new, of course, since nut consumption has been recommended as a part of a healthy diet for years.
What is new is a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine that shows that nut consumption was associated with a reduced risk of death from heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. The people who ate nuts every day got the biggest benefits.
That doesn’t mean that simply adding nuts to an unhealthy lifestyle will have some magical influence on health. In fact, the people in the study who ate the most nuts were also likely to do other healthy things like eat more fruits and vegetables, exercise, and not smoke.
The most practical advice is to eat nuts as a replacement for other snacks or to add nuts to salads and other dishes. While specific types of nuts have different health benefits, the recent study suggests that all nuts, including peanuts, are beneficial.
A new study suggests that going nuts is good for your health. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week, the study shows that regular nut consumption is associated with a lower risk of death from many leading causes of death, including heart disease and cancer. (If you aren’t motivated to read a journal article, this video will give you the key points from the study.)
The reduction of risk was greater with more frequent nut consumption. For example, the risk of death from all causes was 11% lower among men and women who consumed nuts once per week and 20% lower among those who consumed nuts seven or more times per week.
This is level of nut consumption could be met by a common recommendation to consume 1–1.5 ounces of nuts as a snack every day.
One thing to keep in mind is that the health benefits of nut consumption might be due to other positive lifestyle factors that go along with greater nut consumption. Indeed, the authors noted that, “As compared with participants who consumed nuts less frequently, those who consumed nuts more frequently were leaner, less likely to smoke, more likely to exercise, and more likely to use multi-vitamin supplements; they also consumed more fruits and vegetables and drank more alcohol.” Although these other factors were controlled for in the study, common sense suggests that the reduction in risk is due to a combination of beneficial health behaviors.
This is an important point. A person who eats in unhealthy diet, is sedentary, and smokes is unlikely to realize the health benefits of increasing nut consumption. Achieving the full benefits of nut consumption also certainly means adopting other healthy behaviors.
This is good news! Eating more nuts is a relatively easy dietary change to make. And as this study shows, it can lead to a reduced risk of death from some common diseases. So…go nuts!
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Tagged cancer, diet, food, health, healthy choices, healthy-living, heart disease, mortality, New England Journal of Medicine, nutrition, nuts