The People's Perspective on Medicine

Nuts Have Heart-Healthy Benefits for Type 2 Diabetes

Eating an ounce of heart-healthy tree nuts such as walnuts or almonds five days a week lowers the risk of heart disease and cardiac death.

People with type 2 diabetes are usually cautioned to avoid fat in their diets. Nuts may be high in fat, but they seem to be heart-healthy for those with this condition.

People with type 2 diabetes are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease and death from heart trouble. A large study of nurses and male health professionals followed 16,217 people with type 2 diabetes for decades (Liu et al, Circulation Research, Feb. 19, 2019). The research was part of the renowned Nurses Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.

Nuts Are Heart-Healthy Dietary Choices:

The more nuts these volunteers ate, the less likely they were to die during the study. They were also less prone to heart disease. Those who usually ate five servings a week of tree nuts such as almonds, pecans, pistachios or walnuts were 34 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular causes than those who ate less than a serving each month. They were 31 percent less likely to die during the study for any reason.

One serving of nuts is an ounce (28 grams metric). People who increased their nut intake after getting a diabetes diagnosis reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by 11 percent. The nutrition scientists conclude that nuts should be incorporated into heart-healthy dietary patterns to prevent cardiovascular complications in people with type 2 diabetes.

Nuts Are Heart-Healthy for Everyone:

People with type 2 diabetes aren’t the only ones to benefit from including nuts in their diets. Previous research shows the benefits are widespread. An epidemiological study demonstrated that people who enjoy an ounce of nuts several times a week are less likely to be diagnosed with heart disease (Guasch-Ferré et al, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Nov. 2017).

How Do Nuts Help the Heart?

The investigators reviewed data from over 200,000 health care workers. As with the more recent study, these health professionals participated in the Nurses Health Study, the Nurses Health Study 2 and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. They provided data on their health and behavior for more than 20 years.

Every four years they answered questionnaires about their dietary habits. Compared to people who did not consume nuts, those who ate an ounce of nuts at least five times a week had a 20 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease.

Apparently, both peanuts and tree nuts help the heart; walnuts seemed to have the strongest effect. Almonds, cashews and pistachios were also associated with reduced rates of clogged coronary arteries. Don’t count on peanut butter for benefit, though. Overall, it neither helped nor harmed people’s risk of cardiovascular complications.

Nuts & Nutrition:

The researchers point out the nutritional benefits of nuts. They are rich in minerals and fiber as well as unsaturated fatty acids. Walnuts, in particular, contain omega-3 fatty acids that appear to protect the arteries. Both the DASH diet, proven to control blood pressure, and the Mediterranean diet, shown to reduce cardiovascular problems, contain nuts as one component. This seems to be additional evidence that nuts are heart-healthy. You’ll find detailed information on how to follow either of these diets in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I would think nut butters that are free of other ingredients, like partially hydrogenated oils or artificial enhancers/preservers, would be just as nutritious as eating whole nuts. You might also get a bit of added salt and sugars in a spread. Check the nutritional label for full disclosure. I would go for the most natural, simple spread you can find with limited added ingredients.

Are pecans also heart-healthy? I live in Texas where pecans are by far the most common nut, and they are also my favorite. Pecans are seldom included in the lists of heart healthy nuts, which makes me wonder if they are less healthy the the nuts included in the lists.

Does anyone know for sure if the benefits would be the same for nut butters that are organic with nothing added, ie: almond butter, hazelnut butter, cashew butter, etc. Thank you.

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