If you aren’t regularly eating nuts, you could be missing out on some powerful health benefits. Nuts are some of the most nutrient-dense plant foods available, and diets containing nuts have been shown to help prevent disease and extend life expectancy.

Several studies from recent years indicate that nuts can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and other degenerative diseases. The Adventist Study, the Nurses’ Health Study, the Iowa Women’s Health Study, and the Physicians’ Health Study have demonstrated links between nut consumption and cardiovascular health. People who eat nuts several times a week have a 30 to 50 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction, and cardiac arrest. In one study, women with a high risk of heart disease who ate nuts five or more times a week had half the risk of heart attack compared to women who ate nuts only once a week or less. In another long-term study of 7000 men and women who had a high risk of heart disease, those who doubled their intake of nuts to about an ounce a day cut their risk of stroke in half, and those who ate more nuts had a lower risk of premature death from all causes.

What makes nuts so healthy?

One thing that makes nuts so beneficial is their high level of vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin that is also an antioxidant. Vitamin E helps prevent damage to the body’s cells and provides protection against diseases. People with higher levels of vitamin E have been found to have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Eating foods high in vitamin E and other antioxidants may also help prevent cancer. Vitamin E also helps the body use vitamin K and made red blood cells.

When it comes to vitamin E intake, foods such as nuts may be the best source. Studies using vitamin E supplements have not found the same link between vitamin E levels and a reduced risk of disease. One study of postmenopausal women found that vitamin E from food, but not supplements, lowered their risk of death from stroke. Researchers note that taking antioxidant supplements may not be as effective as eating antioxidant-rich foods, and that getting antioxidants from foods may be the best way to protect against cancer.

Nuts are also a good source of both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can help lower LDL cholesterol levels. Many nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which offer numerous health benefits. Nuts are also high in L-arginine, a substance that may help improve the health of artery walls by making them more flexible, and therefore less susceptible to blood clots that can interfere with blood flow.

Which type of nuts are healthiest?

The types of nuts consumed doesn’t seem to matter too much. Most nuts appear to provide health benefits, although some have higher levels of heart-healthy nutrients. Walnuts in particular contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and seem to have extra health benefits — in a study, people who ate more than 3 servings of walnuts per week reduced their risk of dying from cancer by 50 percent.

Almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, and macadamia nuts are also particularly healthy. Though technically legumes — like beans — peanuts may also deliver some heart health benefits.

Remember that you may cancel out the health benefits of nuts if you eat nuts that are coated in sugar, chocolate, or other additives. For the most benefits, choose nuts that are raw or roasted and low in sodium.

Learn more about the healthy habits that can help increase your life expectancy and reduce your risk of disease. Your genetic report from Vivaliti DNA analyzes 80 different genetic markers related to how your body responds to physical activity, how you absorb nutrients, and whether you have an increased risk of certain health conditions. Download a sample DNA report to discover everything you get with Vivaliti DNA.