A handful a day keeps heart disease away

Looking to fill the hole in your holiday menu left by ditching cookies and egg nog? Well here’s a suggestion for you: Put out a bowl of mixed nuts. And be sure to save a handful for yourself… because it might just spare you a heart disease diagnosis down the road.

That’s the conclusion of a recent analysis of data from nearly a quarter million men and women—including some from the famous Nurses’ Health Studies and Health Professionals Follow Up Study.

Over more than 30 years of follow up, researchers documented nearly 28,500 cases of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke. They also discovered that higher total nut consumption consistently translated to lower risk.

Subjects who ate walnuts at least once a week had a 19 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 21 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease. Eating peanuts or tree nuts twice or more weekly, meanwhile, was linked to risk reductions ranging from 13 to 23 percent.

Five or more servings of nuts weekly was linked to a 14 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease risk, and a 20 percent reduction in coronary heart disease risk. And these results were similar whether subjects were eating tree nuts, peanuts, or walnuts.

This study didn’t find a link between total nut consumption and stroke. But it did observe a positive association between stroke risk and both peanut and walnut consumption, individually.

Nuts are packed with beneficial fatty acids that slash inflammation and mop up free radicals. Not only that, but they’re also rich in fat, which helps to satisfy hunger for longer periods of time. They’ve been a mainstay of my nutritional recommendations for as long as I’ve been practicing medicine.

So I can’t say this finding surprises me. But I wish someone would send a memo to all those “experts” in the medical establishment (like the American Medical Association, just to name one) who are still warning the public to eat high-fat snacks like nuts only “sparingly.”

It’s a real shame. Because as this study shows, whether it’s peanuts, walnuts, or my personal favorite, macadamia nuts, well… the more the merrier.