Here at Alkaline for Life, we recommend a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and herbs and spices. Nuts and seeds are often overlooked, even in a healthy diet, but they’re a great source of several nutrients, including vitamin E, healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats, magnesium, and fiber. Nutrient rich, yet under consumed, only 40% of the adults in the United States report consuming nuts on any given day (1).
Interestingly, our diets are already quite low in several of the nutrients that nuts have to offer. For example, half of the population fails to consume the recommended amount of magnesium each day (2), and even fewer, about 60% of Americans, fail to meet the recommended intake of vitamin E (3).
More Nuts, Less Disease Risk
- Eating more tree nuts and peanuts (5 or more servings per week) was associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease and lower risk of mortality, compared to consuming NO nuts or seeds, or only having about 1 serving per week (1 serving = 28g or about 1 ounce) (4).
- The same study found that patients who increased their nut consumption after a diabetes diagnosis saw an 11% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, a 15% lower coronary heart disease risk, a 25% lower CVD mortality, and a 27% lower all-cause mortality, compared with those who didn’t introduce more nuts into their diet.
- Every 2.15 g/day increase in nut consumption (equal to about 2 almonds) was associated with a further decrease in risk of mortality from cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory illnesses, infectious disease, and kidney and liver disease (5).
- Teenagers who consumed more than 5g/day of nuts (about 4 almonds, 3 cashews, or 2.4 walnuts) had a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, even when controlling for their physical activity habits (6).
- A 2016 systematic review and meta-analysis found that for every 28 g/day increase in nut consumption, there was a 29% decreased risk of coronary heart disease, 7% decreased risk of stroke, 11% decrease in cardiovascular disease risk, 15% decrease in total-cancer risk, and 12% decreased risk for all-cause mortality.
- If these relationships were proven to be causal, an estimated 4.4 million premature deaths in America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Western Pacific would be due to a nut intake less than 20 grams per day in 2013. (7)
Can Eating More Nuts and Seeds Improve Blood Sugar Control?
Even if you aren’t worried about reducing your risk for disease down the road, you might want to know that eating more nuts and seeds can improve your blood sugar right now! Why? Well, nuts are not only rich in magnesium, but their healthy fat and fiber content helps to slow the blood glucose spike after a meal.
One study looked at different types of nuts and their impact on blood sugar control (8):
- Mean intake of 60 g/day of almonds (about 49 almonds) for 4 months improved fasting blood sugar, insulin resistance, and cellular uptake of glucose.
- Consuming 13 g of flaxseed (1.8 Tbsp) daily for 3 months improved fasting blood sugar and fasting plasma insulin concentrations and insulin resistance.
- Consumption of 57 g/day of pistachios (about 100 pistachios) for 4 months improved fasting blood sugar, insulin resistance, and cellular uptake of glucose.
Top Nuts and Seeds to Incorporate into Your Diet:
- Walnuts—these are one of the few plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are not only essential nutrients, but they also play a role in brain health as well as fighting inflammation. Walnuts are also a great source of copper, manganese, vitamin E, vitamin B6, and folic acid.
- Almonds—23 almonds provide 20% of the RDA for magnesium, 35% of the RDA for vitamin E, 20% of your daily riboflavin recommendation, as well as 6g of protein!
- Cashews—aside from tasting great, cashews are another great source of magnesium, potassium, iron, and zinc.
- Pistachios—these are a great source of potassium, manganese, copper, and vitamin B6, not to mention, one ounce of pistachios will give you 6g of protein!
- Pecans—a wonderful way to pack in magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin E, potassium, calcium, AND zinc into a meal or snack.
- Chia Seeds—Just ONE ounce of chia seeds provides 11g of fiber, 5g of ALA (an omega-3 fat), and 30% of your daily recommended magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus!
- Flax Seeds—one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fats, and they’re also a good source of folate, B1, B6, magnesium, iron and potassium!
Infographic from: https://greatist.com/health/types-of-nut-infographic#4
As you can see, all of these popular nuts provide nutrients we often don’t get enough of, like magnesium, vitamin E, and potassium. Reaching for a handful of nuts might just help you reach your vitamin and mineral intake goals, while reducing your risk of several diseases, and improving your health!
What about the Calorie Content?
Have you ever thought about incorporating more nuts into your diet, but then remembered they were high in calories and decided not to?
Well, I’ve got some good news for you. While nuts are sometimes regarded as a “fattening” food because of their calorie density, the literature consistently shows that people who consume nuts have a lower BMI than their counterparts who do not.
Even more interestingly, clinical trials in which participants were given nuts to eat each day, with no further instructions, saw that participants gained much less weight than predicted, or none at all (9). Researchers propose that the satiety value of nuts overrides their calorie content, causing nut-eaters to consume fewer calories from other sources.
What Are You Waiting For? Eat More Nuts!
If decreasing disease and mortality risk, maintaining a healthy weight, and increasing your intake of important nutrients like potassium and magnesium doesn’t make you want to run to the store and get a box of mixed nuts, I don’t know what will! Try adding a handful to your salads, bring some to work as a snack, or even experiment with them in cooking.
- NCHS (National Center for Health Statistics). 2014. Nut consumption among U.S. adults, 2009 – 2010. NCHS Date Brief No. 176.
- Wallace, T. C., et al. 2014. Multivitamin/mineral supplement contribution to micronutrient intakes in the United States, 2007-2010. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 33(2):94–102. doi:10.1080/07315724.2013.846806.
- Agarwal, S., et al. 2015. Comparison of prevalence of inadequate nutrient intake based on body weight status of adults in the United States: An analysis of NHANES 2001-2008. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 34(2):126-134. doi:10.1080/07315724.2014.901196.
- Liu, G., et al. 2019. Nut consumption in relation to cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality among patients with diabetes mellitus. Circulation Research 124(6):920–929. doi:10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.118.314316.
- Amba, V., et al. 2019. Nut and peanut butter consumption and mortality in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. Nutrients 11(7):1508. PubMed, doi:10.3390/nu11071508.
- Kim, R. J., et al. 2018. Nut consumption and metabolic syndrome in US adolescents. Public Health Nutrition 21(17):3245–3252. doi:10.1017/S1368980018002070.
- Aune, D., et al. 2016. Nut consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer, all-cause and cause-specific mortality: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMC Medicine 14(1):207. doi:10.1186/s12916-016-0730-3.
- Szalay, J. 2017. Almonds: Nutrition & health benefits. com. Accessed 26 June 2020.
- Mattes, R. D., et al. 2008. Impact of peanuts and tree nuts on body weight and healthy weight loss in adults. Journal of Nutrition 138(9):1741S-1745S. doi:10.1093/jn/138.9.1741S.