10 reasons to eat more nuts

Jane Murphy / 18 August 2015

Want to live a longer, happier, healthier life? Step away from the biscuit tin and start introducing more nuts to your diet.

1. You'll live longer

Eat half a handful of mixed nuts every day and you're significantly less likely to die prematurely. That's according to a brand new study from Maastricht University, which looked at 120,000 men and women, aged between 55 and 69, over a 10-year period. Those who ate at least 10g nuts daily had an average 23 per cent lower change of dying during that time. Just one caveat, though: eating peanut butter doesn't offer the same benefits, perhaps due to its high fat content.

More foods that will help you live longer

2. You'll have a healthier heart

Let's get down to specifics now. That daily serving of nuts can cut risk of heart disease by nearly a third, according to a major review, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which saw scientists pool data from 18 earlier studies. Nuts contain a heart-boosting mixture of essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals - plus, of course, if you snack on nuts, you're less likely to fill up on unhealthy sugary or fatty snacks as well.

Learn more about heart disease

3. You'll keep hunger at bay

We know what you're thinking: of course eating something – anything – is likely to stop you feeling hungry. But opting for 1.5oz almonds – that's about 30 nuts – satisfies hunger pangs without causing weight gain, say researchers at Purdue University in the US.The reason? Nutrient-rich almonds leave you feeling fuller for longer, so although those 30 nuts contain 250 calories, you won't be tempted to overeat later in the day.

Discover more healthy snacks

4. Nuts could help fight cancer

Numerous studies have demonstrated the apparent cancer-fighting properties of nuts. Let's take walnuts, for example. Diets rich in walnuts or walnut oil may help slow the growth of prostate cancer, say US researchers from UC Davies. Another recent Harvard study found that walnuts may slow the spread of colon cancer. And researchers at Marshall University have found that risk of breast cancer drops significantly in mice when their diet contains a modest amount of walnuts. The effect may be due to the antioxidant properties of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E found in walnuts.

Find out more about healthy fats

5. You could boost your brain power

While we're on the topic of walnuts... They can help improve memory, concentration and information-processing, says a study from the David Geffen School of Medicine in the US. Walnuts are the only nuts that provide a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that contributes to brain and heart health.

Learn more about the right foods to feed your brain

6. You may prevent food poisoning

A daily handful of peanuts can improve gut health and boost the body's ability to ward of bugs, such as E.coli, according to new research from the University of Maryland. Scientists found that flour made from peanut kernel stimulates the growth of stomach-friendly bacteria, which in turn prevents infection. Just one word of advice: opt for unsalted peanuts.

7. You'll sleep better

Fancy a bedtime snack? Try a couple of Brazil nuts. They're rich in the essential minerals selenium and potassium, both of which have been linked to a good night's slumber. The chances of experiencing sleep problems are reduced by 20 per cent when selenium intake is doubled, according to a recent study of more than 4,500 adults at Pennsylvania University. And upping your mineral intake will also make you less tired throughout the day.

Learn more about how to get the restful sleep you need

8. You could lower your risk of diabetes

We've already mentioned how snacking on nutrient nuts instead of cakes or biscuits can help keep your weight in check. This in turn lowers risk of type two diabetes. Antioxidant-rich walnuts in particular have been linked to a significant drop in diabetes risk: a major Harvard study found that women who ate 28g walnuts at least twice a week were 24 per cent less likely to develop the condition.

Find out more about lowering your risk of diabetes

9. You'll ward off gallstones

Tree nuts - such as almonds, hazelnuts, pecans and walnuts - contain high levels of essential fatty acids that help lower 'bad' cholesterol in the bloodstream. This, of course, is one of the reasons why nuts are so good for the heart. And because cholesterol plays a major role in the formation of gallstones, a nut-rich diet can prevent the condition from developing in the first place.

10. You'll boost your libido

If you're healthier and more energised in general, of course you're more likely to feel 'in the mood' – so nuts in general can help maintain your sex drive. Almonds are often cited as an aphrodisiac: they're rich in essential fatty acids, which help maintain a healthy balance of sex hormones. And eating a daily handful of pistachios can significantly boost men's sex drive, according to a study published in the International Journal of Impotence Research.

Low libido? Find out what could be causing it

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.