Health Nuts

Did you proudly eschew the bowl of nuts at last night's party for fear of packing on unwanted pounds? Once maligned as too fatty and caloric, nuts are on the rebound thanks to their newfound ability to prevent diabetes and improve heart health.

Harvard School of Public Health researchers studied more than 83,000 women and found that those who ate nuts or peanut butter five times per week or more significantly lowered their risk for type 2 diabetes compared with those who never or rarely consumed nuts or peanut butter. The women who reported eating nuts at least five times a week reduced their risk by almost 30 percent, and women who frequently ate peanut butter reduced their risk almost 20 percent (Journal of the American Medical Association, 2002, vol. 288, no. 20).

Add this to a growing body of other nut-positive research, including a landmark 1992 study from Loma Linda University. Researchers observed about a 50 percent reduction in the number of both fatal and nonfatal heart attacks among those who consumed nuts five or more times per week, as compared with those who ate nuts less than once a week (Archives of Internal Medicine, 1992, vol. 152, no. 7).

Nuts contain 160 to 190 calories and 14 to 19 grams of fat per ounce (with one exception: chestnuts have only 100 calories and 1 gram of fat per ounce). Although the fats in nuts are mostly "good," or mono- and polyunsaturated fats, they're still calorie-rich, so "people should not simply add nuts on the top of the diet," says Rui Jiang, one of the Harvard researchers. "Instead, people should substitute nuts for less-healthy foods, such as refined carbohydrates, like white bread, and red meats."

—Bryce Edmonds