Eating just a handful of nuts a day could lower your risk of a heart attack or of dying from cancer and diabetes, researchers have found – but it's bad news for fans of peanut butter.
A team of researchers in the Netherlands said that the health benefits worked for those who ate around 10g of nuts or peanuts per day, but that the salt and vegetable oils found in peanut spread could cancel out the positive effects.
The effects were equal in men and women, they said.
Tree nuts and peanuts contain vitamins, fibres and antioxidants that may contribute to lower death rates - particularly in those suffering from respiratory diseases like asthma and emphysema, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia.
They could also reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes.
Epidemiologist Professor Piet van den Brandt, who led the study of more than 120,000 Dutch people between the ages of 55 and 69 at Maastricht University, said the findings were "remarkable", particularly due to the small amount that needed to be eaten daily to make a difference.
Adults should have no more than six teaspoons of sugar a day
The four allergy myths you thought were true
"A higher intake was not associated with further reduction in mortality risk," he said.
"This was also supported by a meta-analysis of previously published studies together with the Netherlands Cohort Study, in which cancer and respiratory mortality showed this same dose-response pattern."
10 best nut spreads
10 best nut spreads
1/10 Waitrose Organic Smooth & Spreadable Peanut Butter
This does what the label promises: it’s smooth, sumptuous and easy to spread. Some customers have questioned the provenance of the palm oil used, but Waitrose confirms that it’s Certified Sustainable Palm Oil that conforms to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’s standards. £1.99 for 340g, ocado.com
2/10 WOWButter Crunch Nut Free Spread
The “I can’t believe it’s not peanut butter” entrant is a nut-free spread for those with nut allergies, and is made from toasted soya. Produced in Canada, it’s rich and satisfyig and a likely winner in any blindfold test. £4.99 for 500g, hollandandbarrett.com
3/10 Whynut Green Pistachio Paste
A rich, deep green pistachio paste made from early-harvest nuts grown in Turkey with no flavourings, additives or preservatives. More of a liquid than a spread, it’s best used in cooking for the likes of macaroons, mousses and cakes, or poured over a good-quality ice cream. £6 for 100g, whynut.co.uk
4/10 Skippy Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter
With that genuine all-American taste, this has been a firm favourite in the States since 1933 and is now China’s top-selling peanut butter, too. Elvis Presley liked his banana and peanut-butter sandwiches deep-fried, although those on a slightly healthier kick may prefer it simply spread on bread. £2.65 for 340g, ocado.com
5/10 Equal Exchange Organic Crunchy Peanut Butter
Luxurious and flavoursome, this Fairtrade butter has, in the words of the makers, “no dodgy fats or nasty stabilisers”, and the nuts are roasted without blanching to retain all their natural goodness. Also available as a smooth butter and without salt. £2.54 for 280g, ecogreenstore.co.uk
6/10 Bulk Powders Crunchy Roasted Cashew Butter
This is a gym-related, bodybuilding company, which is just as well as you’d need some strong muscles to lift these 1kg tubs. The USP here is that it’s simply roasted cashews ground into a crunchy butter – and nothing else. High in fibre, it might be just what you need to help you to get those abs in shape. £10.49 for 1kg, bulkpowders.co.uk
7/10 Sun-Pat Rich Roast Crunchy Peanut Spread
Sun-Pat joined the peanut-butter bandwagon in the 1960s and it’s the leading brand in the UK. This is its latest variety: a seriously nutty hit in a jar – with crunch. The peanuts are roasted for longer than usual to bring out the flavour, and milled coarsely to give it the chunky texture. Available from next month, ocado.com
8/10 Damiano Roasted Almond Butter
Here’s something a little different. Organic almonds are shelled, peeled and roasted at Damiano’s plant in Sicily and made into this rich, creamy and naturally sweet butter. Almonds are renowned for their health-giving properties – this is a good way to enjoy them. £4.99 for 180g, healthysupplies.co.uk
9/10 Meridian Smooth Cashew Butter
Cashews have proved a popular alternative to the all-conquering peanut, and this smooth and silken spread gains full marks in the taste and texture department. Made from 100 per cent roasted nuts with nothing added, the makers suggest you can also add it to shakes, bakes and cakes. £2.39 for 170g, tesco.com
10/10 Whole Earth Crunchy Original
This is a nutty and wholesome-tasting butter made from peanuts roasted with the skin on, which is why you see the little red bits in the jar. It’s made from 97 per cent peanuts with sustainable palm oil and sea salt and there’s no added sugar. It’s also certified carbon-neutral. £2.68 for 340g, asda.com
It also found that those who ate nuts regularly tended to be younger, more educated, drank more alcohol, ate healthier foods and were more likely to take supplements.
Women who ate nuts were leaner, less likely to smoke or suffer from diabetes.Reuse content