At one time, people avoided nuts because they believed that they were high in fat. However, we now know that nuts contain mostly unsaturated fat, which is believed to help improve heart health. In addition, nuts are high in fiber, which helps to make you feel full and cause you to eat less. They are also a great source of protein, vitamin E, calcium, selenium, folate, and plant sterols.

Researchers from Boston and Greece wanted to investigate the whether eating nuts reduced the risk of significant health conditions. The study, published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that eating nuts can reduce the risk of both heart disease and diabetes.

About the Study

The systematic review included 27 mostly observational studies with a total of 501,791 participants. The studies used self-reported food diaries and tracked participants health over a period of time. The study found that consumption of nuts was associated with:

  • Decreased risk of fatal and non-fatal ischemic heart disease (heart attacks)
  • Decreased risk of type 2 diabetes

However, nuts were not associated with a decreased risk of stroke.

How Does this Affect You?

A systematic review is considered a reliable form of research because it combines several smaller studies. The higher the number of participants the more reliable the results may be. However, the systematic review is only as reliable as the studies that were included. In this case, the studies were mostly observational trials. Observational trials can help see possible links but can not determine cause and effect so the results of this review should only be taken as possible links not definitive connections.

If you are concerned about heart health and diabetes, you may want to consider adding nuts to your diet. They should be part of an overall, balanced heart-healthy diet. This includes also eating:

  • Foods that are low in fat and cholesterol
  • Foods that are a good source of protein, but are low in fat, such as fish, skinless chicken, fat-free dairy products, and tofu
  • Plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains, such as whole-grain bread and whole-grain pasta

Talk to your doctor about dietary changes that may be helpful for your health situation. Your doctor may also refer you to a dietitian for help with meal planning and nutrition.