Researchers found that a daily snack of 20g of nuts had a “substantial effect” on health, cutting people’s risk of coronary heart disease by nearly 30 per cent, their risk of cancer by 15 per cent, and their risk of premature death by 22 per cent.
The same portion of nuts was also associated with halving the risk of dying from a respiratory disease and reducing the diabetes risk by 40 per cent, according to findings published in BMC Medicine.
Co-author Dagfinn Aune, of Imperial College London, said: “We found a consistent reduction in risk across many different diseases, which is a strong indication that there is a real underlying relationship between nut consumption and different health outcomes.
“It’s quite a substantial effect for such a small amount of food.”
The team analysed 29 published studies involving up to 819,000 people, including all kinds of tree nuts, such as hazel nuts and walnuts, and also peanuts - which are actually legumes.
Aune said: “Nuts and peanuts are high in fibre, magnesium, and polyunsaturated fats - nutrients that are beneficial for cutting cardiovascular disease risk and which can reduce cholesterol levels.
“Some nuts, particularly walnuts and pecan nuts are also high in antioxidants, which can fight oxidative stress and possibly reduce cancer risk.
“Even though nuts are quite high in fat, they are also high in fibre and protein, and there is some evidence that suggests nuts might actually reduce your risk of obesity over time.”
Edinburgh nutritionist Emma Conroy said many people ignore the nutritional benefits of nuts because of the high calorie count.
She said: “If you compare them to a low fat sugary snack like a cereal bar then you would often be better eating nuts as they are more satisfying.
“I would advise people not to graze on them but if you eat them with consderation then they can be very beneficial.”