Nuts are an excellent source of antioxidant polyphenols, omega-3 polyunsaturated, and omega-9 monounsaturated fats which have beneficial effects on health and hormone balance. This may explain why men who eat nuts at least five times a week are more likely to survive a diagnosis of prostate cancer than those who eat less than once a month. That’s the conclusion from a study involving almost 47,300 men who were followed for 26 years.
During that time, 6,810 men developed prostate cancer and, although nut consumption did not affect the chance of developing prostate cancer, those who ate nuts at least five times a week after their diagnosis, were 34% more likely to survive (over a 7 to 10 year follow-up period) than those who ate nuts less than once a month. Eating nuts was associated with fewer deaths from any medical cause including prostate cancer and heart disease.
A serving of nuts was defined as 28 grams (around a handful) and included peanuts as well as tree nuts. Dietary surveys were repeated every 4 years over the 26 year study, so that any change in nut consumption was captured.
Men who eat nuts tend to have a healthier diet and lifestyle overall, of course. In this study, those who ate nuts regularly were also more likely to take vitamin supplements, exercised more, consumed more alcohol, olive oil and tomatoes, and were less likely to have high blood pressure when their prostate cancer was diagnosed. Even so, the results were adjusted extensively to account for known risk factors associated with prostate cancer development and survival.
Why are nuts protective?
Nuts are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and beneficial monounsaturated and omega-3 fats which help to reduce inflammation. They also provide hormone-like sterols that may help reduce prostate cancer progression. Brazil nuts are also the richest dietary source of selenium – an antioxidant mineral that is often lacking in the diet. Eating just 2 Brazil nuts can supply your daily requirement.
Given that a daily handful of unsalted nut consumption makes a tasty and healthy snack, it’s worth including more in your diet if you have a prostate cancer diagnosis.
Eat mixed nuts, such as almonds, Brazils, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pistachios and walnuts rather than just peanuts, for variety.
The good news is that dark chocolate coated nuts count too, as cocoa solids are another rich source of beneficial antioxidants.