If you’re looking for a simple, low-cost way to lower your risk of dying from a heart attack, consider going nuts.
According to a new study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, eating peanuts is associated with a longer, healthier lifespan and particularly a reduced risk of cardiovascular-related deaths such as heart attacks and strokes.
Researchers from Vanderbilt University and the Shanghai Cancer Institute examined nut intake for people from different ethnic groups and lower-income households.
As peanuts (which are actually legumes) are rich in nutrients and are inexpensive to buy, they could be a cost-effective way to improve cardiovascular health, say the authors.
“Nuts are rich in nutrients, such as unsaturated fatty acids, fiber, vitamins, phenolic antioxidants, arginine and other phytochemicals. All of them are known to be beneficial to cardiovascular health, probably through their anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory and endothelial function maintenance properties,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Xiao-Ou Shu.
While research has previously linked nut consumption with lower mortality, those studies focused mainly on higher-income, white populations. This study was the first to discover that all races — blacks, whites and Asians alike — could potentially increase heart health by eating nuts and peanuts.
“In our study, we found that peanut consumption was associated with reduced total mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality in a predominantly low-income black and white population in the U.S., and among Chinese men and women living in Shanghai,” said Dr. Shu.
The researchers examined three large groups involving more than 70,000 black and white men and women living in the U.S. and more than 130,000 men and women living in Shanghai.
The results found that those who ate peanuts across all three groups had improved total mortality and less cardiovascular disease.
The authors note that the study was based on observational data collected from questionnaires, rather than clinical trials, so they cannot determine whether peanuts are specifically responsible for a lower risk of death.
“The findings from this new study, however, reinforce earlier research suggesting health benefits from eating nuts, and thus are quite encouraging,” said William Blot, co-author of the study.
While peanuts may be linked to better cardiovascular health, experts caution against eating too many, especially salted nuts, as they are high in sodium and calories. Researchers say a small handful of nuts (or about 2 tablespoons of nut butter) could be beneficial if eaten as part of a well-balanced diet.