Eating nuts may help you live longer -- and your best bet for a long life is to munch on them regularly, according to a Harvard University study published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
In the largest study of its kind, funded by the U.S. International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation and the U.S. National Institutes of Health, researchers followed 120,000 people for 30 years. They found the people who ate nuts regularly were less likely to die during the study.
Compared with people who didn't eat any nuts, people who ate a daily portion of nuts reduced the death rate by 20% over the course of the study. People who ate four portions of nuts a week were recorded as having a 13% reduction in the death rate.
Even the people who ate nuts once a week were 11% less likely to die during the study.
"The most obvious benefit was a reduction of 29% in deaths from heart disease, but we also saw a significant reduction -- 11% -- in the risk of dying from cancer," said the study's lead researcher, Dr. Charles Fuchs of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women's Hospital.
The study concluded that people who eat nuts are more likely to have healthy lifestyles, but that the nuts themselves are also beneficial.
"Nuts are a tiny food that pack a powerful nutrition punch," said Rachel Berman, health content manager at About.com and a registered dietitian. "They are rich in heart healthy monosaturated fats, fiber, protein and disease-fighting antioxidants like vitamin E."
Berman said that having nutrient-dense nuts as a snack can help keep you fuller longer, and she recommended incorporating one ounce per day into your diet.
She suggested pistachios, which are 49 nuts per 160-calorie serving; almonds, which are 22 nuts per serving; and walnuts, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and have been shown in studies to help reduce the risk and symptoms of many conditions including heart disease, arthritis and depression.