(New York Times) – Sadly, for more than half my life, I had avoided some of nature’s most perfect and healthful foods: nuts and peanuts. I had been mistakenly told as a teenager that nuts were fattening and constipating, effects I certainly wanted to avoid.
But based on what I have learned to the contrary from recent studies, I now enjoy them daily as nuts or nut butters in my breakfasts, salads, sandwiches and snacks. A baggie of lightly salted peanuts accompanies me on excursions everywhere; I even keep a jar of peanuts in my car.
A series of large studies, including the Nurses’ Health Study of 76,464 women and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study of 42,498 men, found that the more nuts people consumed, the less likely they were to die at any given age, especially of cancer or heart disease. And a clinical trial conducted in Spain showed that death rates were lower among those consuming a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra nuts.
However, these studies were conducted almost entirely among relatively well-to-do, well educated, white individuals, and despite the researchers’ care in controlling for other factors that could have influenced the results, there remained the possibility that characteristics of the participants other than nut consumption could account for their reduced death rates.