It's time to put the 90's low-fat diet fad to rest. While high in calories from fats, nuts can aid in weight maintenance and weight loss in a myriad of ways, according to a recent review conducted by researchers at Purdue University. Whole nut snacks have been found to increase satiety and fullness levels, typically leading to smaller meal size. Plus, the authors even found studies that found that eating 30 to 35 grams of walnuts led to higher fat oxidation.
Even the simple act of eating nuts may keep hunger pangs at bay—research shows that chewing generates signals in the brain (both neural and hormonal) that tell your body "I'm full!" Because nuts are hard, they require more chewing, which may reduce appetite.
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You know what goes hand in hand with weight loss? Exercise. Nuts are a great workout snacks, according to a recent study from China. Cyclists were given either almonds or cookies (a common cyclist snack) and then completed three performance tests. The researchers found that those who ate almonds cycled a mile more versus baseline and versus the cookie eaters. Blood tests revealed other improvements in the almond condition that are related to endurance performance, like less oxygen consumption and maintaining a higher blood glucose level.
Heart Disease Stoppers
Your heart loves nuts. Not just because they help with weight loss, which is generally associated with better heart health, but because nut consumption is related to lower rates of various heart diseases, regardless of BMI, according to a meta-analysis published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Across eighteen studies, there were 48,818 cases of mortality, 12,655 cases of type 2 diabetes, 8,862 cases of cardiovascular disease, and 6,623 cases of stroke. They found that increments of one serving per day of nut consumption was inversely associated with, overall cardiovascular disease, stroke (in women), and overall mortality regardless of BMI.
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Pancreatic Cancer Prevention
Not only is pancreatic cancer one of deadliest cancers in the U.S., it's also hard to prevent. Until recently, the only modifiable behaviors found to potentially impact pancreatic cancer were quitting smoking and losing weight. But eating nuts may be another prevention technique to add to the list, according to researchers from Harvard Medical School.
They found that women who consumed one ounce of nuts twice a week had significantly lower risk for cancer. Plus these nuts seemed to have this protective effect regardless of BMI, history of diabetes, physical activity, smoking, or other dietary factors.
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Inflammation is a natural stress response, but gone unchecked, it can turn into some pretty serious chronic conditions. But great news—Brazilian researchers found nuts help naturally reduce inflammation.
A single intake of Brazil nuts, as low as 20 grams or as high as 50 grams, caused significant decreases in four different inflammation markers and an increase in an anti-inflammatory marker in the blood. In fact, this one-time snack of Brazil nuts started decreasing inflammation with nine hours after eating and kept inflammation at bay for 30 days.
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Move over, fish—there's a new brain food in town. A review of nut and cognition research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that nuts might improve several aspects of cognition. People on diets supplemented with nuts have higher levels of brain chemicals that are related to synaptic plasticity, neurotransmitter release, and brain cell survival.
And animal studies have found that mice on diets high in walnuts have improved learning abilities, improved memory, and some cognitive impairment (like Alzheimer's) reversal. The researchers attributed these benefits to the nut's ability to improve heart health and reduce inflammation.