A Lesson From Loma Linda: Eat Nuts, Live Longer

According to science, only 25 percent of our longevity is determined by our genes.   This means that our dietary and lifestyle choices have a huge impact on how long we get to be on this earth.  Did you know that something as simple as choosing to add nuts to your diet can add years to your life?

Consider the community of Loma Linda, California located about 60 miles east of Los Angeles and one of four longevity hotspots in the world.  In his book The Blue Zones, researcher Dan Buettner writes about the lifestyle lessons we can learn from each of these long-lived communities – called ‘blue zones’ – so that we can increase our own life expectancy.  Eating nuts is one such lesson from Loma Linda.  Many residents of Loma Linda are Seventh-day Adventists, a faith that encourages its followers to lead a healthy lifestyle, including a diet that is free of processed foods and rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and – you guessed it – nuts.  A study that followed over 34,000 California Adventists over a period of fourteen years found that Adventists who ate nuts regularly (at least five times per week) added about two years to their lives and their risk for heart disease was cut in half.   Data from three other major cohort studies also show evidence of the cardio-protective effects of nuts, making a compelling case for adding nuts to your diet.

We don’t know exactly how nuts have such a positive effect on health, but here are a few possibilities:

  • Good fat + antioxidants.  Nuts contain mostly cholesterol-lowering unsaturated fats and anti-inflammatory compounds, which lower your risk for heart disease. 
  • Sustained energy.  Fats are digested more slowly than other foods, so including nuts in a meal can help keep your blood sugar steady and improve your energy level and mood.
  • Increased satiety.  Because nuts are energy-dense and satisfying, they can help curb hunger.  In fact, studies have consistently shown that people who eat more nuts are more likely to maintain a healthy weight and in fact, tend to have a lower body mass index than non-nut eaters.

 

So if you feel like a nut, then go ahead and sprinkle some on your salad, cereal or yogurt; eat some raw almonds along with your apple; or add a little peanut butter to your smoothie. 

Keep these tips in mind:

  • For optimum health benefit, eat raw nuts rather than commercially prepared roasted nuts.  Eat organic whenever possible.
  • Dry toasting raw nuts not only deepens the flavor and adds crunch, but also increases the digestibility.  Place nuts in a pie plate and roast in a 350 degree F oven for ten minutes.
  • Be mindful of portion size:  a small handful of nuts or a couple of tablespoons of nut butter should suffice.
  • To maximize freshness, store nuts in your refrigerator in an air-and odor-tight glass container.  If you buy a large quantity, you can freeze them.

 

Erin Hugus, MS, CN is a new contributor to the Zing Blog.  Erin has a Master’s degree in Nutrition and is a fellow graduate of Bastyr University.  Erin is an expert in Diabetes care and is  passionate about empowering people with realistic strategies for optimal health.  She takes great pleasure in her time spent in the kitchen and loves cooking nourishing meals for her family.

Sources:

Christensen K, Holm NV, McGue M, Corder L, Vaupel JW. A Danish population-based twin study on general health in the elderly. J Aging Health 1999;11:49-64.

Gary E. Fraser; David J. Shavlik. Ten Years of Life: Is It a Matter of Choice? Arch Intern Med. 2001; 161(13):1645-1652.

Joan Sabaté; Yen Ang. Nuts and health outcomes: new epidemiologic evidence. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009; 89:5 1643S-1648S.

Richard D. Mattes, Penny M. Kris-Etherton, and Gary D. Foster.  Impact of Peanuts and Tree Nuts on Body Weight and Healthy Weight Loss in Adults. J. Nutr. 2008;138: 9 1741S-1745S

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