The role of peanuts and other nuts in healthy diets
By Elaine WATSON
- Last updated on
Several recent studies have shown how diets high in nuts are associated with better health outcomes, Kathy McManus, director in the Department of Nutrition at Brigham & Women’s hospital, told delegates on day two of the event.
For example, replacing a serving of red meat with a serving of peanuts or other nuts every day can make a significant difference to cardiovascular health (click here), as can replacing carbohydrates with healthy fats (click here), she said.
“Even if you don’t lose any weight, making these substitutions can significantly reduce your cardiovascular disease risk.”
Meanwhile, compliance is always better on moderate fat diets, she said.
It’s the type of fat, not the overall level, that counts
One of the most exciting studies to test this hypothesis is the Spanish PREDIMED trial - in which people following an energy unrestricted plant-based diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts were shown to reduce their risk of a major cardiovascular event by 30% compared with people following a purely low-fat diet.
The results were so dramatic that the trial was stopped ahead of time as the control group was clearly at such a disadvantage, she said. Click here for more details.
The control group was put on a low-fat diet (as per American Heart Association guidelines), and the two intervention groups were both put on Mediterranean diets rich in fresh fruits and veg, seafood, whole grains and mono-unsaturated fats and very low in meat and dairy.
The diet of the first intervention group was supplemented with 30g nuts a day (15g walnuts, 7.5g almonds and 7.5g hazelnuts); and the second with 50ml of virgin olive oil a day.
Analysis of what the volunteers ate during the trial revealed that the intervention groups ate fewer carbohydrates and quite a bit more fat, more fruit, more legumes, nuts and olive oil.
While the control group consumed less total fat and fewer calories, this did not appear to do much for their cardiovascular health, said the authors. “This shows it’s healthy to have a diet high in fat as long as it comes from unrefined plant sources as opposed to saturated fat from animal sources.”