Despite a decades-long, multi-billion dollar war on cancer, the global burden of this deadly disease is expected to rise 50% in just the next five years.[i] A handful of nuts a day could help protect you.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota took note of science finding that nuts are heart healthy. They asked whether nuts could also protect against cancer. They conducted a meta-analysis of 36 observational studies including 30,708 patients on the disease-preventive powers of nut consumption. They included 16 cohort studies along with 20 case-control studies.
Their results published in Nutrition Reviews concluded that nut consumption was linked with an overall decrease in cancer risk. In particular, it was inversely associated with risk of colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer, and pancreatic cancer.[ii]
The combined studies which ranged from 4.6 to 30 years of follow-up found that, compared to patients eating the least nuts, those consuming the most nuts had:
- a 24% lower risk of colorectal cancer,
- a 42% lower risk of endometrial cancer, and
- a 32% lower risk of pancreatic cancer.
In addition, those eating more nuts had a 15% lower risk of cancer in general.
The authors found no links between nuts and other types of cancers.
The researchers noted some possible explanations for the cancer powers of nuts including fiber, protein, minerals, phytosterols, and phenolics compounds. Some of the most powerful anti-cancer nutrients in nuts include vitamin E, selenium, quercetin, resveratrol, and folic acid.
Earlier studies had already established that nut antioxidants improve heart health. In fact, nuts have also been linked to a 20% lower risk of death in general.
Other studies have shown that nuts can also help:
- Prevent gallstones and diverticulitis
- Improve sleep by boosting melatonin
- Protect bone health
- Increase cognitive function
Based on their research, the authors suggested eating five servings (28 grams each) of nuts per week.
And don’t worry about the fat content or calories. Diets that include nuts have been proven not to increase body weight, body mass index, or waist circumference.[iii]
Just one caution. Nuts can be difficult to digest because they contain enzyme inhibitors. They are also high in phytic acid which can block absorption of minerals in the body.
Soaking nuts helps disarm the phytic acid. Buy organic raw nuts and soak them in water salted with Celtic sea salt or another high quality unrefined sea salt. Most nuts can soak eight hours or overnight. But some, like cashews, become slimy if you soak them more than six hours.
After they’ve soaked, drain the nuts and roast them on a cookie sheet in a warm oven at the lowest heat – about 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Or use a dehydrator.
[i] Popat K, McQueen K, Feeley TW. “The global burden of cancer.” Best Pract Res Clin Anaesthesiol. 2013;27:399–408.
[ii] Lang Wu, Zhen Wang, Jingjing Zhu, Angela L. Murad, Larry J. Prokop, Mohammad H. Murad. “Nut consumption and risk of cancer and type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Nutrition Reviews 2015 Jul;73(7):409-25409-425. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuv006
[iii] Flores-Mateo G, Rojas-Rueda D, Basora J, et al. “Nut intake and adiposity: meta-analysis of clinical trials.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;97:1346–1355.
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