Nuts are packed with nutrients that support mental and physical health.

Adding just a handful of nuts to your daily diet can benefit heart health, lower risk of depression, increase longevity and give the brain a boost, according to health research.

“Eating nuts as part of a healthy diet may be good for the heart. Nuts contain unsaturated fatty acids and other nutrients. And they’re a great snack food. They are inexpensive, easy to store and easy to pack when you’re on the go,” reports the Mayo Clinic.

Here are five ways regularly eating nuts can improve your mental and physical health.

1. Nuts are loaded with vital nutrients

Nuts are an excellent source of nutrients. They offer dietary fiber, healthy fat, plant-based protein, magnesium, anti-oxidants, zinc, folic acid and vitamins E and B, per Cleveland Health Clinic.

“You might think of nuts as unhealthy because of their fat content, but that’s not the whole picture,” the British Heart Foundation reports. “Nuts are a nutrient-rich food providing us with fibre, protein, vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients that could help reduce our risk of heart and circulatory diseases. Eating nuts and pulses as protein sources, rather than meat and dairy, has also been recommended as a way of eating that is more sustainable for our planet.”

A study from The New England Journal of Medicine found that individuals who ate nuts every day were less likely to die from heart disease, cancer and respiratory disease. During the 30-year study of nearly 120,000 participants, those who ate nuts at least seven times per week had a 20% lower death rate during the study compared to those who never or rarely ate nuts.

“We found that people who ate nuts every day lived longer, healthier lives than people who didn’t eat nuts,” said study co-author Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

According to Harvard Health, some of the healthiest nuts are:

  • Almonds.
  • Brazil nuts.
  • Cashews.
  • Hazelnuts.
  • Peanuts.
  • Pistachios.
  • Pine nuts.
  • Walnuts.
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2. Walnuts are good for heart health

Incorporating nuts into your diet, particularly walnuts, is linked to a decreased risk of heart disease and heart disease mortality, according to a study from the journal Nutrition Reviews.

Another study, from the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, found that eating half a cup of walnuts every day lowered LDL (”bad”) cholesterol levels, which benefited overall cardiovascular health and lowered risk of cardiovascular disease.

“Walnuts are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, specifically alpha-linolenic acid, and are beneficial for improving cardiovascular health. They reduce inflammation, improve cholesterol balance, reduce blood pressure, and reduce risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease,” says John Higgins, a professor of cardiovascular medicine with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, per Medical News Today.

Walnuts might reign supreme, but regularly eating any nut is beneficial to heart health.

According to the Mayo Clinic, incorporating nuts into a healthy diet can aid heart health by:

  • Improving artery health.
  • Reducing risk of blood clots.
  • Decreasing risk of high blood pressure.
  • Reducing risk of death from heart disease.
  • Lowering bad cholesterol levels.
  • Lowering inflammation associated with heart disease.

A 32-year study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reported that those who regularly ate nuts (peanuts, tree nuts, walnuts) experienced a lowered risk of developing heart disease.

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3. Nuts can lower risk of depression

Eating a handful of nuts every day is associated with a lower risk of depression. A study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition found that consuming a 30-gram handful of nuts every day was associated with a 17% lower risk of depression. Researchers noted that adults who had a daily serving of nuts were less likely to take anti-depressants.

“Our findings indicate that a large sample of middle-aged and older adults from the U.K. consuming a low-to-moderate and regular frequency of nuts are less likely to develop depression than nonconsumers after a 5.3-year follow-up period, regardless of relevant sociodemographic, lifestyle, and health confounders,” the 2023 study said.

A study from the journal Nutrients found that people who regularly eat walnuts are at lower risk of having depression.

“Lower depression scores among consumers of walnuts appear to be traced back to better concentration, higher energy levels, more interest in doing things, and greater self-control of rates of speech and movement. These depression-related characteristics are lower among nut and walnut consumers,” reports the 2019 study.

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4. Nut consumption boost memory and brain health

Eating nuts can protect the brain from cognitive decline and improve memory, according to Northwestern Medicine.

In a study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition, a group of healthy, senior adults were asked to consume mixed nuts every day for two months. Another group ate no nuts.

Researchers found that in those who ate nuts every day, there was increased blood flow to the brain. Their memory and ability to perform memory tasks improved by 16% after eating nuts daily.

Researchers believe this study suggests regularly eating nuts can improve vascular function and memory in older adults.

“Our brains are particularly susceptible to oxidative stress, which damages our brain cells over time, leading to a decline in memory and cognitive function,” Dana Hunnes, a senior clinical dietitian at the UCLA Medical Center and an assistant professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health in Los Angeles, told Medical News Today.

“While cognitive decline is a normal part of the aging process, slower rates of cognitive decline are associated with a higher intake of antioxidants, which are vital for reducing oxidative stress. Nuts, particularly walnuts and pecans, have significant levels of antioxidants, even higher than blueberries, which are famous for their high antioxidant levels.”

5. Eating tree nuts can reduce risk of metabolic syndrome

Regularly eating nuts could aid in weight loss. One study found that overweight women who consumed almonds daily lost nearly three times as much weight as the women who did not eat nuts. They also had a significant reduction in waistline when compared to women who did not frequently eat almonds.

Eating a serving of tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, etc.) every day could reduce risk of metabolic syndrome — a condition that increases risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes — in young adults, according to a study from the journal Nutrients.

The randomized study involved 84 participants, both male and female, between the ages of 22-36, most of whom were overweight or obese and at risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Over the course of the 16-week study, participants were either given mixed tree nuts or a carbohydrate snack to eat twice daily.

The females who ate the tree nut snack lost weight and reduced their waistline. The men who ate tree nuts experienced lowered blood insulin levels. Both men and women in the tree nut group had a reduction in triglyceride levels — high triglyceride levels increase risk of metabolic syndrome.

“We know that snacking contributes almost 25% of total daily calories in young adults in the U.S.,” Heidi J. Silver, research professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said, as reported by Deseret News. “Substituting typical high carbohydrate snacks with tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts) would likely have a positive impact in reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome and its consequences in this age group.”