Certain food trends come and go (remember when everyone was amped about banana milk?), but eating nuts, it seems, will never go out of style. Yes, they’re delicious and versatile, but as practically every nutritionist will attest, they come with lots of health benefits.
A new study published this week in the journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention, & Health looked at the diet and weight of 280,000 people from three different data sets over the course of more than 20 years. Participants (all healthy adults) were asked every four years to report their weight as well as how often they had eaten a serving of nuts. Researchers found that eating more nuts over time (just a small handful, per NPR) was associated with a lower risk of obesity as people aged compared to those who had a more limited nut intake.
Of course, this study does come with some caveats. Like many other nutrition studies, it relies on self-reported data, meaning we’re relying on people to accurately and honestly recount the things they ate. (Do you remember what you ate last Saturday for dinner? Neither do I—which is what makes self-reported data a bit tricky.) Additionally, the study authors note that the subjects were 97 percent Caucasian “with relatively higher socioeconomic status,” making the results of this large study potentially not as applicable to other populations.
Speaking of nuts, this is the very best nut butter, according to an RD:
Still though, this comprehensive study represents even more proof that nuts are pretty damn good for you. While the study focused on walnuts and peanuts in particular, you can’t go wrong with a serving of pretty much any of them. All nuts are rich in protein and healthy fats, which will help keep you fuller and more satisfied for longer than reaching for a snack that’s high in carbs. Plus, each nut offers its own unique health perks. A 1-ounce serving of almonds, for example, offers 6 grams of protein (more than basically any other nut!) and lots of healthy fats that can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Walnuts similarly are packed with heart- and brain-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. A serving of pistachios contains 12 percent of your daily recommended fiber intake and a ton of vitamin B6, which is good for maintaining energy; pecans offer up zinc to boost your immune system and vitamin E for warding off inflammation.
Just remember to stick to one serving at a time of your favorite nuts—as Brigitte Zeitlin, RD, previously told Well+Good, it’s really easy to overdo it. One ounce is typically a healthy serving size, which translates to about 22 almonds, 49 pistachio kernels, 18 cashews, 14 walnut halves, or 19 pecans. Dig in to your favorite and reap the benefits.
Check out these other easy, healthy snack ideas straight from nutritionists. And check out the deets on those cool DIY almond milk machines at Whole Foods.