Recent medical studies indicate that nuts may play an important role in reducing the risk of heart disease. In one study, researchers found that although the benefits were greatest for frequent nut eaters, people who ate nuts even once a aweek had 25% less heart disease than those who avoided nuts completely. In another study, women who ate five or more ounces of nut per week had one-third fewer heart attacks than those who rarely or never ate nuts. Similar findings have been seen in men.
Tree nuts are cholesterol-free and chock-full of important nutrients, including protein and fiber. They are also a great source of vitamins such as folic acid, niacin and vitamins E and B6, and mienrals like magnesium, copper, zinc, selenium, phosphorus and potassium.
Numerous studies have looked at the effect of monounsaturated fats on LDL “bad” cholesterol. It appears that a diet high in monounsaturated fats can reduce the level of artery-damaging LDL cholesterol without lowering HDL “good” cholesterol. In one study, people who had been following a low-fat diet (30 percent of calories from fat) were asked to increase their fat intake to 37 percent of calories. The additional dietary fat came from nuts and was primarily monounsaturated. Even with a higher fat intake, participants saw reductions in their LDL “bad” cholesterol levels.
According to the study “Nuts as a replacement for carbohydrates in the diabetic diet” (Diabetes Care, August 2011) two ounces (about 56 grams) of nuts every day can improve glycemic control and serum lipids in people with type 2 diabetes.
Researchers at University of Toronto and St. Michael’s Hospital monitored 117 people with type 2 diabetes who were randomized to 1-of-3 treatments for three months: about 2 oz of mixed nuts, a healthy muffin control, or half portions of both at about 450 calories per 2000-calorie diet. The full-nut dose group experienced a significant reduction in HbA1c, a marker of blood sugar control, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol. The study showed that eating two ounces of nuts daily as a replacement for carbohydrates improved both blood sugar (glycemic control) and “bad” cholesterol levels.
According to scientific research, studies carried out to date of large population samples do not link habitual consumption of nuts to obesity, but rather the opposite. Individuals who habitually consume nuts are generally thinner than those who do not eat them, as they have a lower body mass index (BMI), a measurement used in nutrition to classify people into obese, overweight, normal weight or underweight.
In a study by the Harvard School of Public Health, researchers found a significant decrease in weight associated with an increased consumption of nuts (New England Journal of Medicine, June 2011).
You can eat nuts even if you are watching your weight. Furthermore, eating just a handful of nuts a day may help curb your appetite.
Dried fruits are a nutrient-dense food and a particularly good source of dietary fiber, potassium and phenolic compounds, which are linked to a number of health benefits, including decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer.
Dried fruits provide the same amount of fibre as fresh fruit. One tablespoon of raisins contains the same fibre as 27 grapes, can prevent digestive disorders and can be included in the recommended five-a-day fruit and vegetable intake. Scientific research has shown that raisins are a concentrated source of antioxidants that contribute to prevent the growth of bacteria that cause inflammation and gum disease.
Consumption of certain dried fruits have shown to have important health benefits, such as improving laxation, reducing serum cholesterol, and reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Prunes have been found to increase bone density. Recent research in postmenopausal women showed that consumption of dried plums was linked increased bone mineral density, which may prevent the development of osteoporosis.
Consumption of dried fruits is an effective way to increase overall intake of fruits and vegetables.