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  • Writer's pictureAllan Fjelmberg, lege

Nuts for good health!

Updated: Mar 19, 2023

Christmas is a holiday, also for nuts. At no other time of the year do Norwegians eat more of this healthy and nutrient-dense food. Nevertheless, we have some way to go before we have reached the recommendation to eat approximately 20 grams of nuts a day, or 140 grams a week...

The intake of nuts in Norway's population has, however, increased somewhat since the turn of the millennium, and Norwegians currently eat an average of around 8 grams of nuts a day. The nuts we find in the shop are usually imported from abroad. In Norway, both oak and hazel bear nuts and have therefore been available to Norwegians for a long time. In the old days, however, nuts were considered candy (1). Among other things, nuts were used in party games at Christmas, such as "fillipine" (2).

WEIGHT GAIN? Nuts are energy-dense, and around 300-400 grams can for some cover the entire day's need for calories. It has therefore been questioned whether regular consumption of nuts can lead to weight gain.However, studies that have investigated this seem to show that nuts do not lead to an increased risk of weight gain, but rather have a beneficial effect on weight (3). The reason for this may be that nuts promote the feeling of satiety due to a high content of proteins and fibre, while at the same time nuts have a monotonous taste which prevents overeating of nuts in their natural form.Nuts also seem to be able to increase resting metabolism.

HEALTHY FAT The fat in most types of nuts consists mainly of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.Walnuts, for example, are one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3.Unsaturated fatty acids are preferable to saturated fatty acids, especially with regard to

cardiovascular disease. This is mainly because unsaturated fatty acids reduce the bad LDL cholesterol. In a summary of 25 individual studies on nuts and cholesterol, it was found that a daily intake of 65 grams of nuts for three to eight weeks can reduce LDL cholesterol by 7.5 percent and fats (triglycerides) by approximately 10 percent (4). The effect seems to be the same for most types of nuts. The cholesterol-lowering effect is greatest in people who already have high LDL cholesterol, low BMI and a typical Western diet.

CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE Since nuts improve cholesterol levels, it therefore comes as no surprise that studies show a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease with regular consumption of nuts. In a summary study, it was found that those who ate nuts five or more times a week had about a 37 percent reduced risk of coronary heart disease compared to those who did not eat nuts (6). Adding nuts to the diet was positive for the heart health of both vegetarians and non-vegetarians (7).

Professor Sabaté at Loma Linda University in California is one of the world's leading researchers on nuts and health. He states that the results from studies on nuts show a strong and convincing connection between nut intake and better heart health. In addition to improving cholesterol, nuts appear to reduce inflammatory markers such as CRP, interleukin-6 and fibrinogen. In addition, nuts contain a lot of antioxidants (e.g. vitamin E), as well as arginine, which stimulates the blood vessels to relax and expand. It is therefore more than just cholesterol reduction that makes nuts a heart-friendly food (8).

OTHER HEALTH BENEFITS The connection between nuts and type 2 diabetes is not as clear as for cardiovascular disease. Some studies have shown that eating nuts regularly can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in women.However, a regular intake of nuts seems to reduce the risk of gallstone disease in both sexes by approximately 25 percent (risk of having to remove the gallbladder).

CONCLUSION With the exception of people with a nut allergy, nuts are healthy all year round, and not just at Christmas.It is recommended to eat a small handful of nuts or seeds daily, preferably in their natural, unprocessed form.They are suitable for breakfast cereal, as snacks or in dinner dishes.They are rich in healthy, unsaturated fats (except for the coconut), antioxidants, fiber and proteins. Nuts are good for the heart, don't seem to add weight, and, "phillipine" can even be used as a Christmas toy. With the hope that the kitchen cupboard in the new year will contain more than just "traces of nuts", we wish the reader a Merry Christmas and a happy new year!



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