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Nice summary article about the known benefits of nuts and seeds, and the nutrients they contain. Bottom line: all nuts and seeds are beneficial to health. It's best to eat a variety of nuts, and eat some nuts daily or at least a few times a week. A typical serving is 1/4 cup or small handful of nuts. Go to the article for the complete nut and seed list and a nut and seed nutrient chart. From Today's Dietician:

The Wonders of Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds have been part of the human diet since Paleolithic times. A few nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, and seeds, namely flax and chia, get most of the glory, but the fact is each nut and seed brings something beneficial to the table. While exact nutrient compositions vary, nuts and seeds are rich sources of heart-healthy fats, fiber, plant protein, essential vitamins and minerals, and other bioactive compounds, including an array of phytochemicals that appear to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

A wealth of data from prospective observational studies and clinical trials suggest that tree nut consumption reduces the risk of several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease (CVD), type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer. Moreover, there may be benefits for cognitive health. Adding support to these findings is research suggesting that incorporating tree nuts in the diet lowers the risk of conditions that contribute to disease, such as hypertension, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, abdominal obesity, endothelial dysfunction, oxidative stress, and inflammation. Various components of nuts, such as heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, plant-based protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals may work together to offer protection against oxidation, inflammation, cancer, and CVD.

Recent findings from the PREDIMED trial suggest that a Mediterranean diet that includes one serving of nuts per day protects against heart attack, stroke, or death from other cardiovascular causes in people at high risk due to type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome. PREDIMED data also suggest that eating more than three servings of nuts per week reduces risk of death from all causes, especially if also following a Mediterranean diet. Subjects who frequently consumed both total nuts and walnuts had a lower rate of death from cancer....While the number of nuts per serving varies by type, a typical serving is 1 oz or about 1/4 cup or a small handful (palm of the hand only)....

Almonds are high in monounsaturated fats, which may explain their association with lower LDL cholesterol levels and reduced heart disease risk. The antioxidant function of the vitamin E (37% DV in 1 oz) in almonds along with their magnesium and potassium also may play a role in cardiovascular health. One study found that almonds may reduce LDL as much as statins.

Brazil and cashew nuts: Technically a seed, 1 oz of Brazil nuts contains a whopping 767% DV for selenium. That's over the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of 400 mcg. But eating two Brazil nuts per day has been shown to be an effective way to increase blood levels of this antioxidant mineral healthfully. Cashews are lower in fat than most nuts and contain anacardic acid, which may improve insulin sensitivity and help prevent chronic inflammation.

Pecans contain multiple forms of vitamin E and are especially rich in gamma-tocopherol, which has been shown to inhibit oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Oxidized LDL contributes to inflammation in the arteries and is a risk factor for CVD. Pecans also have the highest polyphenol and flavonoid content of the tree nuts.

Pistachios: Two studies have shown that eating in-shell pistachios enhances feelings of fullness and satisfaction while reducing caloric intake. When eating in-shell pistachios, study subjects consumed about 40% fewer calories compared with pistachio kernels. Pistachios have the second highest polyphenol and flavonoid content of the tree nuts. 

Walnuts are another excellent source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts also boast the highest antioxidant content of the tree nuts, followed by pecans and cashew nuts. This makes walnuts one of the best nuts for anti-inflammatory benefits. Like pecans, walnuts are unusually rich in the gamma-tocopherol form of vitamin E. ... Walnut consumption among NHANES subjects is positively associated with cognitive function in both younger and older adults. They're a natural source of melatonin, which is critical in the regulation of sleep, circadian (daily) rhythms, and may play a role in walnuts' anticancer benefits.

A newly published study reviewed 61 studies that looked at daily tree nut consumption on cardiovascular risk factors and found many health benefits. Tree nut (walnuts, almonds, pistachios, macadamia nuts, pecans, cashews, hazelnuts, and Brazil nuts) consumption lowers total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and ApoB, the primary protein in LDL cholesterol. It appeared that nut dose is more important than nut type in lowering cholesterol. The beneficial health effects are greater at about 60 grams (about 2 oz or 2 servings) or more nuts consumed per day, but positive health effects are also found at one serving per day. Five studies found that 100 g nuts per day lowered concentrations of LDL cholesterol by up to 35 mg/dL - an effect size comparable to some statin regimens.

Tree nuts are rich in unsaturated fats, soluble fiber, antioxidants, and phytosterols, which produce beneficial effects on serum lipids, blood pressure, and inflammation. Most studies have looked at walnut and almond consumption, but studies found positive benefits for all types of nuts consumed. From Medical Xpress:

Study finds tree nut consumption may lower risk of cardiovascular disease

A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming tree nuts, such as walnuts, may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. After conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis of 61 controlled trials, one of the authors, Michael Falk, PhD, Life Sciences Research Organization, found that consuming tree nuts lowers total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and ApoB, the primary protein found in LDL cholesterol. These are key factors that are used to evaluate a person's risk of cardiovascular disease. Walnuts were investigated in 21 of the 61 trials, more than any other nut reviewed in this study.

"Our study results further support the growing body of research that tree nuts, such as walnuts, can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases," said Dr. Falk. "Tree nuts contain important nutrients such as unsaturated fats, protein, vitamins and minerals. Walnuts are the only nut that provide a significant amount (2.5 grams per one ounce serving) of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based form of omega-3s."

Beyond finding that tree nuts lower total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and ApoB, researchers also found that consuming at least two servings (two ounces) per day of tree nuts, such as walnuts, has stronger effects on total cholesterol and LDL. Additionally, results showed that tree nut consumption may be particularly important for lowering the risk of heart disease in individuals with type 2 diabetes.

Of 1,301 articles surveyed, 61 trials met eligibility criteria for this systematic review and meta-analysis, totaling 2,582 unique participants. Trials directly provided nuts to the intervention group rather than relying solely on dietary advice to consume nuts. The dose of nuts varied from 5 to 100 g/day and most participants followed their typical diet.

The following is a list of nutrients that some researchers (from the Institute of Food Technology) think of as especially beneficial to the brain. Other researchers may (or probably will) focus on other nutrients. I am posting it even though I generally dislike articles that talk about "superfoods" or an itemized list of foods that one should eat to the exclusion of others. Because, of course, focusing on some nutrients may leave out many just as important nutrients.

Also, medical thinking changes over time and what was once considered "unhealthy" may later be considered a wonderful food (remember when eggs, nuts, and coconuts were almost considered evil?). And vice versa (remember when margarine with partially hydrogeneated oils and trans-fats was considered healthier than butter?) And study after study says it is better to eat the foods, rather than take supplements. So keep in mind that the following nutrients are found in whole foods and in a varied diet. And when they mention a specific food such as blueberries, remember that ALL berries have benefits (though they vary), so eat a variety of berries. Same with nuts - eat a variety and not just walnuts. From Science Daily:

Eight nutrients to protect the aging brain

Brain health is the second most important component in maintaining a healthy lifestyle according to a 2014 AARP study. As people age they can experience a range of cognitive issues from decreased critical thinking to dementia and Alzheimer's disease. In the March issue of Food Technology published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), contributing editor Linda Milo Ohr writes about eight nutrients that may help keep your brain in good shape.

1. Cocoa Flavanols: Cocoa flavanols have been linked to improved circulation and heart health, and preliminary research shows a possible connection to memory improvement as well. A study showed cocoa flavanols may improve the function of a specific part of the brain called the dentate gyrus, which is associated with age-related memory (Brickman, 2014). {NOTE: good sources are cocoa and dark chocolate}

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids have long been shown to contribute to good heart health are now playing a role in cognitive health as well....Foods rich in omega-3s include salmon, flaxseed oil, and chia seeds.

3. Phosphatidylserine and Phosphatidic Acid: Two pilot studies showed that a combination of phosphatidylserine and phosphatidic acid can help benefit memory, mood, and cognitive function in the elderly (Lonza, 2014). {NOTE: good sources are fish and meat}

4. Walnuts: A diet supplemented with walnuts may have a beneficial effect in reducing the risk, delaying the onset, or slowing the progression of Alzheimer's disease in mice (Muthaiyah, 2014).

5. Citicoline: Citicoline is a natural substance found in the body's cells and helps in the development of brain tissue, which helps regulate memory and cognitive function, enhances communication between neurons, and protects neural structures from free radical damage.... {NOTE: Citocoline is synthesized in the body from choline, so see foods high in choline}

6. Choline: Choline, which is associated with liver health and women's health, also helps with the communication systems for cells within the brain and the rest of the body. Choline may also support the brain during aging and help prevent changes in brain chemistry that result in cognitive decline and failure. A major source of choline in the diet are eggs. { NOTE: Good sources of choline are eggs, meat, fish, beans, and cruciferous vegetables.}

7. Magnesium: Magnesium supplements are often recommended for those who experienced serious concussions. Magnesium-rich foods include avocado, soy beans, bananas and dark chocolate.

8. Blueberries: Blueberries are known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity because they boast a high concentration of anthocyanins, a flavonoid that enhances the health-promoting quality of foods. Moderate blueberry consumption could offer neurocognitive benefits such as increased neural signaling in the brain centers.

Great reasons to eat walnuts. Yes, this study was done in mice, but it (as supported by other research) should also apply to humans.From Medical Xpress:

'Tis the season to indulge in walnuts

Researchers at UC Davis and other institutions have found that diets rich in whole walnuts or walnut oil slowed prostate cancer growth in mice. In addition, both walnuts and walnut oil reduced cholesterol and increased insulin sensitivity. The walnut diet also reduced levels of the hormone IGF-1, which had been previously implicated in both prostate and breast cancer. The study was published online in the Journal of Medicinal Food. 

Davis and colleagues have been investigating the impact of walnuts on health for some time. A previous study found that walnuts reduced prostate tumor size in mice; however, there were questions about which parts of the nuts generated these benefits. 

In the current study, researchers used a mixture of fats with virtually the same fatty acid content as walnuts as their control diet. The mice were fed whole walnuts, walnut oil or the walnut-like fat for 18 weeks. The results replicated those from the previous study. While the walnuts and walnut oil reduced cholesterol and slowed prostate cancer growth, in contrast, the walnut-like fat did not have these effects, confirming that other nut components caused the improvements - not the omega-3s.

While the study does not pinpoint which combination of compounds in walnuts slows cancer growth, it did rule out fiber, zinc, magnesium and selenium. In addition, the research demonstrated that walnuts modulate several mechanisms associated with cancer growth.

"The energy effects from decreasing IGF-1 seem to muck up the works so the cancer can't grow as fast as it normally would," Davis said. "Also, reducing cholesterol means cancer cells may not get enough of it to allow these cells to grow quickly." In addition, the research showed increases in both adiponectin and the tumor suppressor PSP94, as well as reduced levels of COX-2, all markers for reduced prostate cancer risk.

Although results in mice don't always translate to humans, Davis said his results suggest the benefits of incorporating walnuts into a healthy diet. Other research, such as the PREDIMED human study, which assessed the Mediterranean diet, also found that eating walnuts reduced cancer mortality.

Still, Davis recommends caution in diet modification. "In our study the mice were eating the equivalent of 2.6 ounces of walnuts," he said. "You need to realize that 2.6 ounces of walnuts is about 482 calories. That's not insignificant, but it's better than eating a serving of supersized fries, which has 610 calories. In addition to the cancer benefit, we think you also get cardiovascular benefits that other walnut research has demonstrated.

To celebrate National Nut Day, two articles about health benefits of nuts. From Medical Daily:

National Nut Day 2014: Peanuts, Tree Nuts, And How Each Helps Your Health

For people who already eat plenty of meat and dairy products…nuts and ‘nutty’ legumes, like Brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts and walnuts, are a good nutritional alternative to meat,” Dr. Donal Murphy-Bokern, independent agri-environmental scientist and author of several studies on food system impacts, said in a statement. Heeding this advice means people can reap the benefits that come with eating nuts — Protein! Fiber! Omega-3 fatty acids! 

Nuts fall into two categories: peanuts (which are really legumes) and tree nuts. The latter includes Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts and America’s beloved almonds. ...” And existing research generalizes that eating nuts does everything from reduce risk for a slew of diseases, maintains weight, boosts gastrointestinal and bone health, even adds years to a person’s life.

As previously mentioned, nuts are pretty much equal in terms of calories. There are, however, some nuts that have more heart-healthy nutrients and fats than others. See: pistachios. This particular tree nut is high in healthy fats called monounsaturated fats (MUFA). MUFAs are often associated with belly fat.

One study published in the journal Nutrition found that when middle-aged adults at risk for heart disease and diabetes incorporated more pistachios into their diet, they weighed less and lessened their cholesterol and blood sugar levels after just six months. And a separate study from UCLA found people who regularly ate pistachios lost an average of 10 to 12 pounds. Almonds and cashews are additional nuts high in MUFAs. 

The Harvard School of Public Health reported, “several of the largest cohort studies, including the Adventist Study, the Iowa Women’s Health Study, the Nurses’ Health Study, and the Physicians’ Health Study have shown a consistent 30 percent to 50 percent lower risk of myocardial infarction, sudden cardiac death, or cardiovascular disease associated with eating nuts several times a week.”

Though almonds tend to be associated most with heart health, it’s actually walnuts that take the number one spot. ...Health reported a 2006 Spanish study, which “suggested that walnuts were as effective as olive oil at reducing inflammation and oxidation in the arteries after eating a fatty meal.”

Folate, as defined by Harvard Medical School, is “the naturally occurring form of the vitamin that is in foods or in the blood.” It’s also the vitamin that staves off brain atrophy, or the progressive loss of brain cells over time... A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found folate may ward off depression, too. And which nut is super rich in folate? Unsalted peanuts...peanuts are also high in vitamin E and niacin, both of which boost brain health. Hazelnuts and almonds are known to have concentrated amounts of E, too, so either nut is bound to help your noggin.

Study done in mice, but shows benefits of walnuts to brain. From Science Daily:

Fight against Alzheimer's disease: New research on walnuts

A new animal study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease indicates that a diet including walnuts may have a beneficial effect in reducing the risk, delaying the onset, slowing the progression of, or preventing Alzheimer's disease. Research led by Abha Chauhan, PhD, head of the Developmental Neuroscience Laboratory at the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities (IBR), found significant improvement in learning skills, memory, reducing anxiety, and motor development in mice fed a walnut-enriched diet.

The researchers suggest that the high antioxidant content of walnuts (3.7 mmol/ounce) may have been a contributing factor in protecting the mouse brain from the degeneration typically seen in Alzheimer's disease. Oxidative stress and inflammation are prominent features in this disease, which affects more than five million Americans.

Walnuts have other nutritional benefits as they contain numerous vitamins and minerals and are the only nut that contains a significant source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) (2.5 grams per ounce), an omega-3 fatty acid with heart and brain-health benefits. The researchers also suggest that ALA may have played a role in improving the behavioral symptoms seen in the study.