The surprising health benefits of nuts

Small habits, no bigger than a nut, can have a huge impact on your health. A simple daily handful of nuts is associated with a longer and healthier life. Rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals but especially in good essential fats, nuts protect the heart as much as all health.

In 1970, the American scientist Ancel Keys (1904-2004) showed that people who consumed large amounts of saturated fat (butter, red meats) had a much higher risk of heart disease than those who ate mainly unsaturated fats, of vegetable origin (olive oil, for example).

Curiously, instead of promoting a transition to a diet that favored the use of these vegetable fats, these observations served instead as a pretext to demonize any food rich in fat, whatever its nature. This real phobia of fat has caused plants such as avocados and nuts to acquire a bad reputation, while the consumption of several low-fat, but very high-sugar foods was encouraged.

This was a monumental mistake, as this transition from fat to sugar is directly correlated with a marked increase in overweight and obesity in the population, while the abandonment of foods such as nuts has deprived many people of an exceptional source of elements essential to the maintenance of good health.

Nuts: full of antioxidants, vitamin E and manganese

A “nut” is an oleaginous nut, that is to say one that contains a high proportion of fat in the form of oil. From a botanical point of view, walnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts and pecans are the only true representatives of this family, but in practice, this designation is extended to seeds that have a similar appearance and composition, such as almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, pistachios and peanuts.

All these fruits are quite exceptional foods, not only because their fats are unsaturated and therefore beneficial for the heart, but also because they represent an excellent source of several essential vitamins and minerals (vitamin E, manganese), fiber and antioxidant compounds.

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More than 100,000 people followed for 30 years

The importance of consuming nuts regularly is well illustrated by the results of the largest study ever conducted on the impact of these foods on the risk of premature death. By analyzing the frequency of nut consumption in 76,464 women and 42,498 men over a period of 30 years, a team of American researchers showed that these foods had a very beneficial effect on health, especially when consumed regularly.

For example, people who eat nuts once a week are 11% less likely to die prematurely compared to those who never eat them, while this risk decreases to 20% with a daily serving of nuts. This increased longevity associated with nut consumption is directly linked to a reduced risk of mortality from heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases.

Separating the “good fat” from the chaff

These results show that it is absolutely necessary to be discerning and stop seeing everything that is fatty as an enemy of health. All fats are not equal: excessive consumption of trans fats or saturated fats (red meats, fried foods, potato chips) is undoubtedly harmful to health, but plants rich in unsaturated fats such as nuts are, conversely, among the best foods available to reduce the risk of chronic disease and increase longevity. Nuts have been consumed by man since prehistoric times: they are part of our food heritage. Modern science confirms their extraordinary benefits.


Keys A. Coronary heart disease in seven countries. Circulation 1970;41 (suppl 1):1-211.

Bao Y et al. Association of nut consumption with total and cause-specific mortality. N Engl J Med.

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