Eating well is the first pillar of good health. It helps to prevent many diseases and illnesses and helps us to maintain a healthy weight.
The World Health Organisation suggests we eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day to lower the risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and obesity. The NHS gives five reasons to eat 5-a-day:
· Fruit and vegetables are a good source of vitamins and minerals.
· They're an excellent source of dietary fibre, which helps maintain a healthy gut and prevent certain digestion problems. A diet high in fibre can also reduce your risk of bowel cancer.
· They can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers.
· Fruit and vegetables contribute to a healthy and balanced diet.
· Fruit and vegetables taste delicious and there's so much variety to choose from.
When eating fresh fruit and vegetables each of your five portions should be 80g. Since vitamins and minerals are more concentrated in dried fruit, because the water content is much lower, just 30g counts as a portion. This is about one heaped tablespoon of raisins or sultanas, one tablespoon of mixed fruit, two figs, three prunes or four dried apricots.
A recent study into nut consumption followed 76,464 female and 42,498 male health professionals in the US for up to 30 years.
The participants were asked about their nut consumption at the beginning of the study and then every couple of years thereafter. Deaths during the study were also monitored. The researchers found that eating nuts was associated with a reduced risk of death from any cause during the study, and that the more frequently nuts were eaten, the lower the risk of death.
Eating 28g of nuts seven or more times per week was associated with a 20% reduced risk of death.
However, on its own the study can't show a cause and effect relationship. Participants who consumed nuts frequently tended to be healthier as they were leaner, less likely to smoke and more likely to exercise and have a healthy diet. Somewhat surprisingly, though, these people were also more likely to drink more alcohol. Although these factors were adjusted for, there could be other differences that were not adjusted for.
This research reinforces the message that nuts can be part of a healthy balanced diet. But we should be wary of added salt – unsalted nuts are always the better option for health.