Eating a handful of nuts a couple of times a week can seriously cut the risk of heart disease

Need a snack? Instead of reaching for the Tootsie Rolls, experts suggest nibbling nuts to keep hunger at bay.

That’s because eating a handful of nuts a couple of times a week can cut the risk of heart disease by almost a quarter, research has revealed.

A study of more than 210,000 people found that those who ate walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios, and pecans two or more times a week were 23 percent less likely to develop coronary heart disease and 15 percent less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease.

A handful of nuts twice a week or more could cut the risk of heart disease. (Photo: Getty Images)

The same amount of peanuts — which are technically a legume — also reduced the risk of the diseases by 15 percent and 13 percent.

And eating walnuts, specifically, one or more times per week reduced coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease risk by 21 percent and 19 percent.

Commenting on the findings, lead author Marta Guasch-Ferre, PhD, a nutritionist at Harvard University, said: “Our findings support recommendations of increasing the intake of a variety of nuts, as part of healthy dietary patterns, to reduce the risk of chronic disease in the general populations.”

The large-scale research, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, collated the medical history, lifestyle, and illnesses of 210,000 female nurses and male health professionals for up to 32 years via self-administered questionnaires every two years.

The analysis revealed a link between the quantities of nuts consumed and cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease.

Those who ate five or more servings of nuts a week had a 14 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 20 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease.

2.3 million Brits are affected by heart disease. (Photo: Getty Image)

Emilio Ros, MD, of the endocrinology and nutrition service at the Hospital Clinic in Barcelona, reviewed the results and said the study really does seem to suggest that nuts protect against heart disease.

“Raw nuts, if possible unpeeled and otherwise unprocessed, may be considered as natural health capsules that can be easily incorporated into any heart-protective diet to further cardiovascular well-being and promote healthy aging,” he said.

The NHS in the U.K. says cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels.

It’s usually associated with a buildup of fatty deposits inside the arteries — known as atherosclerosis — and an increased risk of blood clots. It can also be associated with damage to arteries in organs such as the brain, heart, kidneys, and eyes.

While CVD is prevalent, it can often largely be prevented with a healthy lifestyle, starting with adding nuts to the shopping list.

Cashew, anyone?

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