Nuts Such As Pecans Help Weight Loss & Heart Health, Reduce Cancer & Diabetes Risk In Diet Studies

Matthew MeadAP Images

It’s time to go nuts, according to the newest diet studies. Eating nuts such as pecans offers a tasty way to improve the health of your heart, boost weight loss by burning fat faster, and even reduce the risk of diseases ranging from cancer to diabetes.

Multiple health concerns, such as obesity and diabetes, have been shown to be impacted by diet. Those who struggle with obesity and diabetes, in turn, face increased risks of heart disease, which Medical News Today reports is one of the leading causes of death. In the search to find ways to use food as medicine, nuts have emerged as one of the tiniest foods with the biggest diet benefits.

Going Nuts Have Multiple Diet Benefits, Say Researchers

Small but mighty, nuts are packed with nutrients such as “good” fats, omega-3s. One recent diet study revealed the multiple benefits of nuts.

“Higher nut intake is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer, and all-cause mortality, and mortality from respiratory disease, diabetes, and infections.”

While that study focused on nuts in general, another research project analyzed the benefits of pecan nuts for the heart. Performed at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Massachusetts, the study revealed that participants who were overweight but otherwise healthy showed improvement in various signs of cardiovascular health.

Lead researcher Diane McKay explained that pecans contain high levels of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. By cutting down on saturated fat in the diet of participants and substituting pecans, the study showed that eating these types of nuts provide “cardio-protective” benefits.

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Moreover, McKay pointed out that the research revealed it took only minimal amounts of pecans to make a significant difference.

“What’s really interesting is that just one small change — eating a handful of pecans daily — may have a large impact on the health of these at-risk adults.”

In addition to showing how pecans can protect from cardiovascular disease, other studies focusing on nuts have shown benefits ranging from protection against cancer to reducing the risk of diabetes.

Nuts Reduce Cancer Risk

One new diet study conducted at Yale Cancer Center found that patients with stage III colon cancer who ate nuts on a regular basis reduced their risk of recurring episodes of cancer, reported Yale News.

One serving of almonds equals 23 nuts.
One serving of almonds equals 23 nuts.Featured image credit: Al GolubAP Images

However, not all nuts are created equal, said Yale Cancer Center director Charles S. Fuchs, M.D., who served as the senior author of the research project. Patients who ate tree nuts, not peanuts, did better when it came to surviving without recurring cancer. While peanuts belong in the legume category, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, and pecans are classified as tree nuts. Dr. Fuchs revealed the specifics of the difference in the survival rate between those who ate peanuts and those who ate tree nuts.

“Further analysis of this cohort revealed that disease-free survival increased by 46% among the subgroup of nut consumers who ate tree nuts rather than peanuts.”

But the research project had significance beyond colon cancer. The study uncovered the link between diet and diseases such as type 2 diabetes, confirming previous research shown that nuts can lower insulin resistance.

Nuts Boost Fat-Burning, Help With Weight Loss

For those struggling to achieve their weight-loss goals, eliminating food groups such as nuts and nut butter may seem like the right way to go. Wrong, a weight-loss diet expert told Women’s Health.

Jess Cording, R.D., pointed out that dieters tend to “go crazy,” cutting out foods that they assume are fattening. But while nuts do contain fats, they are the “good” fats, that can actually boost fat-burning, said the expert.

Ranking nuts and nut butter second on the list of the top 15 fat-burning foods, Cording explained that the healthy fat, protein, and fiber in nuts satisfy cravings and boost energy as well as weight loss. One-fourth cup of nuts or two tablespoons of nut butter qualifies as one serving. Using almonds as an example, the nutritionist said that one serving provides more than seven grams of protein, 18 grams of healthy fat, more than four grams of fiber, and 200 calories.