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January 26, 2014

EXTENSION NEWS: Nuts about nutrition

By KATHY SMITH

Did you know that nuts can help you to live longer?

This can be a surprise to many because nuts have an undeserved reputation as being junk food. A recent study by Harvard of more than 100,000 people found that those who ate nuts regularly, even daily, are less likely to die from heart disease, cancer and respiratory disease compared to those who do not.

The study also found nut eaters are healthier overall, with lower rates of obesity and smaller waists with lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

There are many benefits to including nuts in the diet. These include:

Brain function

Nuts have amino acids, vitamins and minerals that support blood flow to the brain that can aide in cognitive thinking and tasks. This is especially important as we age.

Heart health

Nuts contain fat, but it is the good fat both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that can help to lower LDL cholesterol that is the bad and raise HDL that is good cholesterol. They also assist with heart rhythm and blood flow.

Weight

Nuts contain high quality protein and fiber that fill you up and keep you feeling full longer than foods without protein or fiber. This means the potential to eat less and less often.

Diabetes

Nuts have a low glycemic index and their protein and fiber help prevent spikes in blood sugar and the crashes that often follow eating simple carbohydrates.

Diverticulosis

In the past, doctors recommended people with diverticulosis to avoid nuts because it was thought they would lodge in the intestine and cause inflammation. Instead, current evidence shows the fiber in nuts helps speed digestion and keeps the intestines healthy.

Cancer and respiratory disease

Nuts are abundant in folate, niacin, vitamin E, potassium, calcium, magnesium and phytochemicals. These nutrients offer anti-inflammatory and antioxidant characteristics.

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