Yes. Nuts are on the ‘must eat’ food list if you want to reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Studies show eating a daily handful of nuts (about 30g) can significantly reduce the risk of developing heart disease by up to around 40% [1, 2]. Even people who only eat nuts once a week have less heart disease than those who never eat nuts [3].

The association between nuts and a reduced risk of heart disease was established decades ago following the publication of four large population studies [3-6]. Since then, the evidence has continued to support and strengthen the evidence for nuts [2, 7, 8]. 

There are several ways that nuts are believed to reduce the risk of heart disease:

  • Fatty acids: nuts contain mainly poly- and monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to help reduce total and LDL cholesterol. 
  • Phytosterols: nuts contain phytosterols which also reduce cholesterol.
  • Amino acids: these are involved in the prevention of blood clots and in helping to keep the arteries ‘elastic’.
  • Phytochemicals: nuts contain many ‘phyto’ or plant chemicals, including vitamins and minerals which act as antioxidants, helping to keep the heart and blood vessels healthy.
  • Fibre: fibre can help reduce cholesterol.

References

  1. Kelly, J.H., Jr. and J. Sabate, Nuts and coronary heart disease: an epidemiological perspective. Br J Nutr, 2006. 96 Suppl 2: p. S61-7.
  2. 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): p. 207.
  3. Fraser, G.E., et al., A possible protective effect of nut consumption on risk of coronary heart disease. The Adventist Health Study. Arch Intern Med, 1992. 152(7): p. 1416-24.
  4. Ellsworth, J.L., L.H. Kushi, and A.R. Folsom, Frequent nut intake and risk of death from coronary heart disease and all causes in postmenopausal women: the Iowa Women's Health Study. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis, 2001. 11(6): p. 372-7.
  5. Hu, F.B., et al., Frequent nut consumption and risk of coronary heart disease in women: prospective cohort study. BMJ, 1998. 317(7169): p. 1341-5.
  6. Albert, C.M., et al., Nut consumption and decreased risk of sudden cardiac death in the Physicians' Health Study. Arch Intern Med, 2002. 162(12): p. 1382-7.
  7. Neale, E., D. Nolan-Clark, and L. Tapsell, The effect of nut consumption on heart health: a systematic literature review. 2015. Nuts for Life, unpublished.
  8. Neale, E., et al., The effect of nut consumption on heart health: an updated systematic review of the literature. 2018. Nuts for Life, unpublished.
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