Eating a handful of nuts every day could save your life by slashing your risk of potentially-fatal conditions, like heart disease and cancer.

An in-depth research review, which combined the findings of 20 good-quality studies, shows that people who ate 28g (a handful) of nuts a day had a 22 per cent reduced risk of dying early, compared with people who almost never ate nuts (1).

In one year, more than four million deaths could have been avoided if everybody had been eating a handful of nuts every day*.

*In the regions covered by the 20 studies: America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Western Pacific.

The review showed that people who ate a handful of nuts daily cut the chance of developing heart disease by 29 per cent, cancer by 15 per cent and stroke by seven per cent.

Coronary heart disease claims more Australian lives than any other disease (2).

Also, the risk of dying from respiratory disease was halved (reduced by 52 per cent), and the risk of dying due to diabetes dropped by 39 per cent and infectious disease by 75 per cent – although there were fewer studies looking at these three conditions.

Backing up these findings, a major report (from 37 leading scientists across 16 countries), concluded that 11 million deaths worldwide could be prevented if our current diet moved towards a more plant-based diet, including greater nut intake (3).

In fact, the EAT-Lancet report calculated that one in five deaths globally were due to a few key dietary factors – too much salt, and a lack of nuts, seeds, whole grains and fruit.

A recent Australian review found just two per cent of Australian adults were eating the recommended 30g of nuts a day.

Researchers suggest the disease-fighting effect of nuts is likely due to the unique nutrients and bioactive compounds they contain.

The bottom line

The daily habit of a handful of nuts offers some major health benefits which could save your life. In fact, scientific evidence suggests this simple dietary change can reduce your risk of premature death by a fifth. What’s not to love about that?


  1. Aune, D., et al. Nut consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer, all-cause and cause-specific mortality: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMC Med, 2016. 14(1): 207.
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2020. Deaths in Australia. Cat. no. PHE 229. Canberra: AIHW. Available at:
  3. EAT-Lancet Commission Summary Report 2019. Available at:

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