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More Evidence for the Health Benefits of Nuts & Peanuts
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by Penny Kris-Etherton PhD, RD, Jennifer Fleming, MS, RD, Alicia Kroat RD, LDN

We have long known about the cardiovascular benefits of nuts and peanuts. Several population studies conducted in the United States have shown that consuming nuts/peanuts ≥ 5 times/week lower the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) by about 40%. There are multiple mechanisms that have identified that account for this, including lowering LDL cholesterol, increasing HDL-cholesterol and decreasing blood pressure. A new study published on November 20, 2013 in the New England Journal of Medicine by Ying Bao and colleagues showed that consumption of 1 oz./day of nuts (such as almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts), as well as peanuts was inversely associated with total mortality. Specifically, men and women who consumed nuts/peanuts (1 oz. serving) seven or more times per week had a 20% lower death rate. In addition, there were inverse associations for death due to cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease. Another interesting finding was that individuals who consumed more nuts had a healthier lifestyle and also were leaner.

The message is resoundingly clear that incorporating nuts in a heart healthy diet will confer many health benefits beyond cardiovascular disease. Nuts/peanuts are a nutrient dense food and are high in unsaturated fats, plant protein, vitamins E, folate and niacin, and the minerals magnesium, calcium and potassium. They also are a rich source of many bioactive phytochemicals that contribute to the health benefits in many different ways, i.e., anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Nuts/peanuts are very versatile in that they can easily be incorporated into a healthy dietary pattern. For example, nut butter and peanut butter can be spread on whole grain bread, bagels or English muffins in the morning. For lunch or dinner, sprinkle nuts/peanuts on salads or vegetables, and use them for a variety of nut-encrusted lean protein entrees.

With the Holiday Season approaching, it is the perfect time to start experimenting with nut dishes for family and friends. What better way to celebrate the Season by "giving the gift of health” to your loved ones.

Enjoy this holiday recipe as a delicious way to increase your fruit, vegetable and nut intake all in one dish!

Image courtesy of Paper Boat Creative/ Getty Images

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