Morning Rounds: Heart-health benefits of nuts

NORFOLK, Va. - Nuts are the go-to snack for many people, but doctors say they are more than a convenient food option.

"Multiple studies have shown that a handful approximately 1 to 1-1/2 ounces of nuts daily decreases the risk of stroke or heart attack," said Dr. Ryan Light on News 3 This Morning.  "Nuts can also help decrease the risk of diabetes, boost the immune system, and may also help with memory."

Dr. Light said the FDA lists almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachio, and walnuts as heart-healthy options.  He said data on other nuts is limited, but recent studies have shown cashews and peanut butter are beneficial, too.

Why are nuts good for us?  Dr. Light said not only are they a great source of protein, but they also have an appropriate ratio of monounsaturated fats to polyunsaturated fats.  This combination of good fats helps lower cholesterol.  Nuts have also been shown to help lower blood pressure, too.

"Most nuts are a good source of nutrition when eaten in moderation," stressed Dr. Light.  "Portion size is important because nuts are high in calories.  Weight gain will eliminate the heart benefit. Make sure to avoid heavily salted nuts."

He continued, "Most of the studies show that the full benefit of nuts consumption is approximately 1 to 1-1/2 ounces daily.  This amount has been shown to decrease the risk of stroke and heart attack mortality by as much as 20 to 30 percent."