We’re increasingly realizing that nuts are important for health, especially because of the protein and the healthy fats that they contain. But, with so many different types of nuts out there, it can be tricky to work out the types of nuts and amounts you should be eating.
Even nut butters are thought to be healthy, as long as you pay attention to any additives that they might contain.
But, what about the types of nuts and amounts? What approaches are the healthiest?
One fairly recent study (Gobbo et al., 2015) attempted to figure out what the balance of current research has to say about the topic.
In their study, the authors conducted an extensive and systematic review of the published articles on nuts. They were specifically looking at studies that looked at the impacts of any type of nuts on risk factors for heart disease. This included considering impacts on blood lipids (including cholesterol and triglycerides), lipoproteins, inflammation and blood pressure, as well as some other measures.
The study was especially interesting because the authors focused only on the outcomes of intervention trials. This is relevant because many of the studies into the health benefits of nuts have been observational in nature.
Observational studies are limited because they cannot detect cause and effect (as the site Simply Psychology highlights). In contrast, intervention trials do have the ability to look at cause an effect.
In total, there were 61 different studies that the authors considered in their study. The interventions in the studies ranged from 3 to 26 weeks in length.
Overall, the authors found that nuts were associated with a significant decrease in levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.
There were no significant effects for the other outcomes measured.
The authors also found that the observed effects were dose-dependent. The strongest effects were seen with consumption of more than 60 g (around 2.1 ounces) of nuts per day.
The outcomes of the research support the idea that nuts can decrease some risk factors for heart disease. This may mean that nuts can also play a role in decreasing the risk of heart disease itself.
At the same time, the results of the study highlight the idea that when it comes to types of nuts and amounts, it is the amount of nuts consumed that may be more relevant. More research is needed to determine what doses of nuts are ideal for health but the outcomes of this study support the idea that nuts in general offer health benefits.
Because of the differences in nutritional profiles between nuts, it is likely that the most effective approach for getting health benefits from nuts is to simply vary which nuts you consume. That gives you the best options for nutrients and also stops you from getting bored of one particular type of nut.
You can also use recipes to take advantage of nuts - such as this list from A Joyful Riot.
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Out of all the different choices, what are your favorite nuts?