Nut and seed consumption is on the rise as people are seeking healthier food choices and lifestyles. Nuts and seeds provide excellent human nutrition, as they are especially good sources of essential fatty acids, vitamin E, protein, and minerals. They also provide valuable fiber components, important phytonutrients in nuts and seeds include protease inhibitors, ellagic acid, and other polyphenols.
Because of the high oil content of nuts and seeds, one would suspect that the frequent consumption of nuts would increase the rate of obesity. However, in a large population study it was found that the people who consumed the most nuts were less obese. A possible explanation is that the nuts produce a feeling of appetite satisfaction. This same study also demonstrated that higher nut consumption was associated with a protective effect against heart attacks (both fatal and nonfatal). Four other large studies, including the Nurses Health Study, the Iowa Health Study, and the Physicians Health Study, all found that nut consumption is linked to a lower risk for heart disease. Researchers who studied data from the Nurses Health Study estimated that substituting nuts for an equivalent amount of carbohydrate in an average diet resulted in a 30% reduction in heart disease risk. Researchers calculated even more impressive risk reduction–45%–when fat from nuts was substituted for saturated fats (found primarily found in meat and dairy products).