Eat Nuts to Live Longer

Just a handful a day offers a slew of health benefits—and my help boost your longevity.

assortment of nuts

Medically reviewed in January 2020

Updated on March 11, 2022

Who says a crunchy, tasty snack has to be unhealthy? At your next party, just skip the bacony appetizers and head for the bowl of mixed nuts. Staring at a gourmet gift basket? Rip open the roasted almonds.

You could be adding years to your life.

Eat nuts for better health
By now you probably know that nuts are nutritional powerhouses that help keep weight, blood sugar and cholesterol in check. But research shows the ultimate benefit: Regularly eating nuts—including pistachios, walnuts, and even peanuts—may help you live longer.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) looked at nut consumption and total mortality among more than 100,000 people over more than two decades. The findings were significant: People who ate nuts seven or more times a week had a 20 percent lower death rate than those who didn’t eat nuts.

And that’s not all. When researchers looked at specific causes of death, they found that regular nut-eaters were less likely to die of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease than those who did not eat nuts.

Keith Roach, MD, associate professor in clinical medicine in the division of general medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and New York Presbyterian Hospital, is not surprised by the findings. Dr. Roach, who helped develop the RealAge Test, has long recommended eating nuts as a way to make your RealAge younger.

“The researchers note many substances in nuts have healthy effects—anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, cardioprotective. I note that nuts are basically monounsaturated fat and protein, which help you feel full, and so eating nuts may reduce hunger, lead to less weight gain, and perhaps most importantly, keep people from eating unhealthy substitutes,” Roach says. “Monounstaurated fat has a direct RealAge effect, mostly due to its beneficial effect on the heart and on blood cholesterol.”

This isn’t the first study to show nuts may boost longevity. The Adventist Health Study, Iowa Women’s Health Study, and others found an inverse association between nut consumption and total mortality. An analysis of the PREDIMED study found that more than three servings of nuts per week (compared with none) was associated with reduced mortality.

But the research published in NEJM adds a lot of muscle to the body of evidence.

“This study is so important because the magnitude of the effect is larger, because it shows for the first time reduction in cancer and other (not just heart) deaths, and because it is so large and well-done that it is less likely that the researchers missed another factor associated with eating nuts that is really responsible for the mortality benefit seen,” Roach says.

You don’t have to gobble nuts like a squirrel to boost your health; just a handful (about one ounce) on most days is all it takes. The first benefit is nearly instant: Nuts help fill you up. Over time, nuts will help lower inflammation and cholesterol. And if you make nuts a part of your diet for the long haul, well—they just may be the fountain of youth!

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