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Eating More Walnuts May Help You Live Longer, Suggests Harvard Study

Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer
By Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer
Eliza Sullivan is a food writer and SEO editor at mindbodygreen. She writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She studied journalism at Boston University.
Image by Anna Puzatykh / Istock
August 20, 2021

It's nuts to say, but sometimes the simplest snacking choices can have the biggest impact on our health—case in point, a recent study from researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health that was published in Nutrients found evidence of a link between snacking on walnuts and longevity.

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Just how much walnuts might improve longevity.

The study found that eating more walnuts, more often, was linked with improved longevity in both men and women. More specifically, they found that consuming five or more 1-ounce servings of walnuts per week was associated with a 14% lower risk of death—from any cause—and an additional 1.3 years of life, when compared to participants who didn't consume walnuts.

On top of that, researchers found that in cases where participants had a "suboptimal diet" (based on data on food, nutrients, and chronic disease risk), one half-cup serving of walnuts per day led to a 12% lower risk of death, and specifically a 26% lower risk of death from cardiovascular diseases.

While it is important to note that the study was supported by the California Walnut Commission, it did include data from over 90,000 participants (67,014 women and 26,326 men, to be exact) and up to 20 years of follow-up.

"What we've learned from this study is that even a few handfuls of walnuts per week may help promote longevity, especially among those whose diet quality isn't great to begin with," explains lead investigator Yanping Li, senior research scientist at the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "It's a practical tip that can be feasible for a number of people who are looking to improve their health, which is top of mind for many people."

(Some of) the other health benefits of walnuts.

Walnuts do seem to be consistently associated with promising health outcomes. Previous studies have linked walnuts to better gut and heart health and anti-inflammatory benefits—they've even been called the best nut for supporting healthy aging. Not only that, but some of the neurologists we've chatted with agree that walnuts are pretty much the ultimate brain-healthy snack (thanks to healthy omega-3 fats). They're also, of course, a good source of protein and therefore a favorite among nutritionists for snacking during the day.

Looking to work more walnuts into your day, but not sure about just snacking on them plain? They make a great addition atop a salad with fruit or for topping a breakfast bowl. The versatile nut can even transform into a homemade plant-based "beef" to use in all your favorite recipes.

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Eliza Sullivan
Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer

Eliza Sullivan is an SEO Editor at mindbodygreen, where she writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She received a B.S. in journalism and B.A. in english literature with honors from Boston University, and she has previously written for Boston Magazine, TheTaste.ie, and SUITCASE magazine.