Would you like to hear a joke about nut butter? Well, I’m not going to tell you one because (drum roll please) you might spread it.
How nuts can help prevent cancer
Okay, I have to admit that my pun is a little nutty. But I can assure the health benefits are nuts are no laughing matter. That’s because study after study has confirmed that these heart-healthy snacks are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and phytonutrients that benefit your health in so many ways.
In a moment, I’ll discuss why you should be including a wide variety of these superfoods in your diet and I’ll also suggest a few quick recipe ideas. But first I’d like to talk about the results of an exciting new study, which provides further confirmation that nut consumption can help prevent some cancers.
New research, which was recently published in The Journal of Clinical Oncology, found that a higher intake of nuts was correlated with a significantly lower risk of colon cancer recurrence (and mortality) in patients who had been diagnosed with stage III colon cancer.
This is pretty amazing news. Colon cancer is the third leading cause of death in the United States and more than 50,000 people will die from it every year. With stage III colorectal cancer, tumors have spread to the lymph nodes, but not other organs. It’s a terrible diagnosis to get.
As you might expect the conventional (but life-saving treatments) are quite invasive. They usually include surgery to remove sections of the colon and adjoining lymph nodes followed by chemotherapy. Even then, 3-year survival rates usually hover around 50 percent.
Naturally, anything that can bolster those survival rates and prevent tumors from recurring is welcome news indeed. But that’s precisely what eating a handful of nuts a couple of times a week appears to do.
This was an observational study, so the researchers have yet to establish cause and effect. But their scientific reasoning appears sound. It is known that hyperinsulinemia (high insulin levels in the bloodstream) is correlated with an increased risk for cancer.
The authors of this study hypothesized that if high insulin is associated with increased cancer risk, then reducing metabolic disorders and conditions that give rise to hyperinsulinemia (diabetes, obesity, and high-glycemic diets) will help prevent cancer from occurring or recurring. Makes sense right?
Is cancer a metabolic disorder?
Their findings are further evidence that many cancers may be the tip of a metabolic iceberg and that lifestyle factors can play a huge role in preventing them. Too put it more explicitly, lifestyle factors that precipitate metabolic conditions like obesity and diabetes will also significantly increase your risk for cancer. But the really good news here is that eating a plant-based diet, getting plenty of exercise and adequate rest supports metabolic health, which in turn lowers your chances of getting many cancers.
Tree-based nuts can be a huge part of this equation because they are low in carbs but high in nutrients that counteract inflammation, reduce oxidative stress, and lower blood glucose levels. This makes them one of the best foods for people with metabolic syndromes.
Paradoxically, nuts can be fattening (if you eat too many of them), but they can help you lose weight if you don’t overdo it. You can add chopped, minced, or even whole nuts to salads. I also like to garnish some of my favorite veggies with coarsely chopped Brazil nuts (these nuts are rich in selenium, a unique trace mineral that some studies suggest could help prevent both breast and prostate cancer).
To encourage you to be a little more active I’d also like to suggest that you try making your own trail mix using a selection of nuts with small amount of your favorite dried fruit and even a few dark chocolate chips. It’s a great high-energy snack that you can take with you for a hike or your daily walk… because you do take a walk every day right???