• “Studies do show that the benefits of eating nuts are potentially cumulative, increasing as you eat more nuts." (iStockphoto/Getty Images)Source: iStockphoto/Getty Images
It almost sounds too easy for people who are able to safely eat nuts - consume a handful and potentially live a longer life.
By
Yasmin Noone

6 May 2021 - 11:07 AM  UPDATED 10 May 2021 - 1:11 PM

When you look at a collection of crunchy fresh nuts in hand, what do you see?

According to nut expert and Accredited Practising Dietitian, Belinda Neville, a 30 g handful of nuts eaten safely every day, signifies an opportunity to live a longer life.

Neville explains why citing current research suggesting that regular nut consumption could protect you from a number of major illnesses and lower your risk of early death.

“Studies do show that the benefits of eating nuts are potentially cumulative, increasing as you eat more nuts,” Neville, program manager at Nuts for Life, tells SBS.

“So, for example, having four 30  g servings or handfuls a week may be better for you [in terms of potentially reduced mortality] than eating two servings a week.”

“If you eat a 30 g handful of nuts five to seven days a week, you should see quite significant results in terms of reduced mortality from a range of chronic diseases.”

A Norwegian-led literature review and meta-analysis, published in BMC Medicine in December 2016, has shown that nut consumption is associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality or dying early. The study also linked eating a handful of nuts regularly to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), total cancer and mortality from respiratory disease, diabetes, and infections.

The review found that people who ate 28 g (about a handful) of nuts a day had a 22 per cent reduced risk of dying early, compared with people who almost never ate nuts.

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“If you eat a 30 g handful of nuts five to seven days a week, you should see quite significant results in terms of reduced mortality from a range of chronic diseases.”

Nuts are rich in unsaturated fatty acids, proteins, different minerals (including potassium and magnesium), vitamins (including vitamin C and E), and phenolic compounds.

“This unique nutritional profile means that nuts possess different properties that beneficially modify CVD risk factors and therefore reduce the risk of CVD,” Neville says. “The ability to lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol levels is also probably one of the best-known properties of nuts.”

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Most of us aren’t going nuts enough

Eating a tiny handful of nuts every day to boost your chance of living a long life may sound too easy to be true. However, Neville explains, eating nuts is not going to – alone – guarantee longevity.

“You can’t just continue to have a poor diet, eat meat pies and burgers, do no exercise but have a handful of nuts every day and think you’ll be okay,” she explains. “That’s not how it works. The evidence and health recommendation is of course in the context of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

“But the research certainly shows that those that people who include around 30 g of nuts in their day, on most days, have better health outcomes than someone who has a healthy diet but don’t eat 30 g a day, on most days.”

The bad news is that most people who are able to eat nuts safely are not having their daily dose.

The researchers behind the Norwegian-led review calculated that a total of 4.4 million deaths across America, Europe, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific might be attributable to a nut intake of less than 20 g a day. However, more research is needed to establish this international association.

Over on home soil, the Burden of Disease study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, found the third most significant dietary impact on disease was a ‘diet low in nuts and seeds'.

A 2020 review by the University of Wollongong, commissioned by Nuts for Life and published in Public Health Nutrition in, found that 5.6 per cent of Australians ate the recommended 30 g of nuts a day (about a handful).

So many cuisines, so many nut recipes

The truth of the matter is not everyone can eat safely nuts. People with a nut sensitivity or allergy should follow medical advice and steer clear of nuts and nut products accordingly. But Neville encourages people who can eat nuts safely to do so to reap the nutritional and health benefits.

If you want to increase your nut consumption, Neville advises looking to international recipes for ideas, from Asia to Europe, South America and beyond.

“Nuts are very versatile and can be incorporated into lots of different meals, spanning many different cuisines from around the world.

“You can use nuts to make a paste or add them to a stir fry. Or you can include nuts in a smoothie or eat them raw as a snack. It's just exciting to explore all the many tastes and textures that you can get with the different types of nuts available.”

Almond and coconut maple granola

Full of crunch and flavour this granola will become a favourite for breakfast or brunch. Feel free to switch in nuts of your choice for the almonds and pecans and serve with whatever fruit you prefer – poached or fresh. For a vegan option, serve with non-dairy milk and/or yoghurt.

Fudgy walnut brownies

When I want a brownie, I want it to be dense, chocolatey, fudgy, and rich! 

Baklawa with dates and nuts

The combination of walnuts, pistachios and dates creates a moist fruity filling with a satiating crunch. It's warm, homely, and very addictive!

One-pan miso eggplant with peanuts

Miso paste brings a sweet, exotic and slightly salty flavour to the eggplant. This makes a filling supper for two or can be shared between four. It is delicious with a Chinese leaf salad or steamed broccoli.