(NaturalNews) Eating nuts five or more times a week reduces your risk of heart attack by a whopping 60%. And in addition to this stunning statistic, research shows that people who eat more nuts are generally thinner. They also have lower levels of LDL cholesterol and better bones. A new study even links eating nuts to a lower risk for cancer and inflammation.
Latest research results
In a study reported in the March, 2008 edition of the journal Blood, researchers hypothesized that NB-kappaB deactivation in cellular responses may be the result of anacardic acid found in cashew nuts. They found that anacardic acid potentiated the apoptosis induced by cytokine and chemotherapeutic agents, which correlated with the down-regulation of various gene products that mediate cell proliferation, invasion, and angiogenesis, all known to be regulated by the NF-kappaB. They concluded that anacardic acid has a role in preventing and treating cancer through modulation of these signaling pathways.
Many studies have documented the benefits of nuts
The 1990's Adventist Health Study of a large population of California Seventh Day Adventists found that in addition to reducing the risk of heart attack by up to 60%, eating nuts was one of the four top factors for extending longevity. The beneficial effects were found for men, women, vegetarians, meat-eaters, fatter people, thinner people, the old, the young, those who exercise and those who don't.
Four other large studies have since confirmed that eating nuts confers cardiac benefits and reduces risks of developing diabetes, dementia, advanced macular degeneration, gallstones and stroke. Calculations suggest that daily nut eaters gain an extra five to six years of life free of coronary disease, and an overall longevity increase of two years.
The more frequently nuts are eaten the better, as benefits appear to increase with increased consumption. The risk of fatal coronary disease and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes both appear to decrease steadily as nut consumption increases to once or more per day.
Nuts contain lots of fat, and many people are still operating under the food industry induced belief that fat makes you fat, so nuts are often shunned. But research does not support this conclusion. In the Nurses' Health Study, the frequent nut consumers were actually a little thinner on average than those who almost never consumed nuts, and daily supplements of almonds or peanuts for six months resulted in little or no increase in body weight. Nuts apparently satisfy hunger and provide a wealth of nutrients, creating a feeling of satiety and comfort. This results in an overall lessening of food consumption.
Nuts are nutrient packed
A recent study shows that nuts have a fatty acid profile that favorably affects blood lipids and lipoproteins. They are low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fatty acids in the form of the monounsaturates oleic and palmitoleic acids.
Nuts also contain polyphenols, a type of antioxidant containing a polyphenolic substructure. These compounds are thought to be instrumental in oxidative stress, a causative factor for neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases.
Nuts provide a good amount of magnesium, boron and zinc, so essential for bone health. They are an excellent source of the antioxidant mineral manganese. All nuts are a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E, folic acid, copper, and the amino acid arginine which is a precursor of human growth hormone. Some nuts contain tryptophan, a stimulator of serotonin in the brain that alleviates depression and boosts relaxation. Nuts are high in fiber and phytochemicals that protect against cancer and other chronic diseases.
Which nuts are best?
In the Adventist Study about 32 percent of the nuts eaten were peanuts, 29 percent were almonds, 16 percent walnuts, and 23 percent other types. The Nurses' Study found that peanuts, which are really legumes, appeared to be just as effective in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease as tree nuts. Experiments where volunteers were fed nuts as part of their diet for several weeks have found that walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachio nuts, and macadamia nuts all alter the composition of the blood in ways that would be expected to reduce coronary risk.
Some nuts confer additional health benefits. Walnuts are high in heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Almonds are particularly nutritious, with 100 grams yielding 16.9 grams of protein. They also contain a good amount of vitamin B-17, known as laetrile, that many believe is nature's most effective cancer cure. Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, and only three of them a day will provide you with an amount in excess of the recommended daily allowance in a highly bio-available form.
Gaining maximum nutritional value
It's fine to have a snack of nuts right out of the bag, but nuts in this form are fairly difficult to digest and eating too many may strain your pancreas. That's because they contain phytic acid, nature's way of making sure the nut survives the winter to sprout in the spring. Phytate is a digestive inhibitor that interferes with mineral absorption. So to gain the maximum nutritional value and digestibility from your nuts, its best to soak them or sprout them before they are eaten. This can only be done with raw nuts, preferably bought in the shells. Soaking neutralizes phytic acid. Soaking also stimulates the process of germination, releasing the vitamin C content and increasing vitamin B content and carotenes (precursors of vitamin A).
Soak your nuts in water. Almonds and walnuts require a soaking time of between 12 and 24 hours. Pecans and cashews require only 6 to 12 hours. Then dry them at a temperature that does not exceed 105 degrees F. You may want to follow the way of the Aztecs and dry them in the sun. Be sure your nuts are completely dehydrated before you put them away. Store dehydrated nuts in the refrigerator for up to a week. Season them with your favorite herbs and spices for a real treat.
Some raw nuts will sprout when soaked, a true test of vitality. They can sustain some heating, maybe up to around 118 degrees F and still sprout, although some of the enzymes will be degraded or destroyed at such a high temperature. Sprouted almonds are truly delicious, much better than the unsprouted version. Don't sprout them for more than 2 days or they may become rancid. Peanuts will also sprout.
During the soaking process, complex sugars responsible for intestinal gas are broken down and a portion of the starch in the nut is transformed into simpler sugars. Soaking inactivates aflotoxins, a mold found predominantly in peanuts.
Pesticides abound in the production of nuts. The way to minimize your intake of pesticide residues and to induce nut farmers to turn to organic production is to choose organic or wild nuts. Unfortunately, only about 1% of U.S. farmland dedicated to producing tree nuts is certified organic, and there are only a few states that produce organic tree nuts. There are several online sites that deal in organic, soaked and sprouted nuts.
(www.vegan.org) "Nuts - the surprising benefits of eating nuts regularly".
About the author
Barbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.