Go Nuts!

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, approximately 0.5-1.0% of the population suffers from a tree nut allergy. Roughly 30% of those allergic to peanuts area also allergic to tree nuts.

Despite the risk for food allergy, the latest recommendations from the US Dietary Guideline Advisory Committee suggests increasing intake of nuts. And, unless you have a nut allergy, the advice to increase nuts in your diet is quite sound. Nuts, like other plant-based foods, have a variety of nutrients for good health, including protein, fiber, mono-unsaturated fat, zinc and magnesium. They’re also high in antioxidants and other phytochemicals known to fight disease.

Nuts and Heart Disease:

A recent review of literature published in Progress in Cardiovascular Disease found that research from both observational and intervention studies suggest significant and strong links between nut consumption and reduced risk of fatal and non-fatal coronary heart disease, heart attack and sudden death with a weaker link with stroke. The authors believe that nuts provide protection against CVD as they improve lipid and apolipoprotein profiles. In addition, data suggests that nut intake offers protection from CVD by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation while fostering endothelial function improvement. Unsaturated fats, L-arginine, minerals, phytosterols, and phenols in nuts further provide several health benefits (1).

A 2018 meta-analysis of prospective studies also suggests that regular nut intake is associated with reduced all-cause mortality, incidence of cardiovascular disease and mortality, coronary heart disease incidence and mortality, and incidence of stroke and mortality (2).

Nuts and Brain Health:

Preventing dementia is on everyone’s mind, so to speak. Researchers are investigating preventive agents in three different types of nuts that are used in traditional Persian medicine. A pharmacological review of almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts suggests they contain bioactive compounds that may aid in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers believe these tree nuts provide micronutrients, macronutrients, and phytochemicals that impact various pathways in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease such as oxidative stress, amyloidogenesis, and cholinergic activity. They may also play a role in cholesterol reduction and have anti-inflammatory properties (3). 

Persian medical scholars suggest that people increase their consumption of these three tree nuts for their brain-protective activity and potential to reverse brain atrophy, particularly with hazelnuts. These recommendations are based on clinical observations (4).

Additional research supports the consumption of nuts as part of the MIND diet (Mediterranean DASH diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay). Dietary patterns that include a high intake of plant-based foods, probiotics, antioxidants, soy beans, nuts, and omega-3 fatty acids and reduced consumption of saturated fat, animal-based protein sources and processed sugars have been found to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and eventual onset of Alzheimer’s disease (5).

How to Include More Nuts in an Eating Pattern:

You can encourage your clients to add more nuts to their diets in a variety of tasty ways...

  • Add chopped almonds, pecans, or walnuts to oatmeal.
  • Sprinkle almond slivers over green beans or broccoli.
  • Toss pistachios, hazelnuts, or walnuts into salad.
  • Grab a handful of pecans and enjoy them with an apple.
  • Add crushed peanuts to Asian noodle dishes or rice.

By Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD

References:

  1. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/tree-nut-allergy
  2. Kim, Y.; Keogh, J.; Clifton, P.M. Nuts and Cardio-Metabolic Disease: A Review of Meta-Analyses. Nutrients 201810, 1935.
  3. EdwardBitokab JoanSabatéa Nuts and cardiovascular disease Progress in Cardiovascular    Diseases Volume 61, Issue 1, May–June 2018, Pages 33-37.
  4. Kim, Y.; Keogh, J.; Clifton, P.M. Nuts and Cardio-Metabolic Disease: A Review of Meta-Analyses. Nutrients 201810, 1935.
  5. lNarjesGorji Reihaneh Moeini ZahraMemariani, Almond, hazelnut and walnut, three nuts for neuroprotection in Alzheimer’s disease: A neuropharmacological review of their bioactive constituents. Pharmacological Research Volume 129, March 2018, Pages 115-127.
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