Comment: Tuck in to the snacks, but don't go nuts this Christmas

Tell-tale signs that Christmas is just around the corner: as if to assure us that a simple seasonal pleasure can be safely indulged come reports that eating a handful nuts a day can slash the risk of heart disease and cancer.

A handful of nuts a day may be good for you
A handful of nuts a day may be good for you

They echo findings of a Dutch study that found a 23 per cent lower chance of death during a ten-year study of people eating at least 10g (0.3oz) of nuts or peanuts a day. For those who thought nuts were, well just nuts, they contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, various vitamins, fibre, antioxidants and other bioactive compounds. The study found premature mortality risk due to cancer, diabetes, respiratory and neurodegenerative diseases was lower among the nut consumers – over ten years.

Bowls of nuts are a common feature of the Yule fireside. So it is reassuring to hear having a handful as a daily snack is not a bad idea (provided, of course, you are not allergic). However, this should not be a green light for nut gluttony. Hold fire on the nut-crackers. There are still 20 days to go and plenty of time for gloom-laden warnings that eating too many nuts, along with chocolates, turkey and trifle, can be injurious to health.

Soon there’ll be the admonitions on portion control, accompanied by calls to monitor our daily nut consumption. It is also time to insist that each nut carries a sell-by date to discourage serving up left overs from previous years. Those health-giving properties could prove time-expired.

Safer, surely, to curl up with that fail-safe bowl of unsalted sugar-free porridge, enlivened (if you must) with a dry low-calorie biscuit. It may be just a handful of nuts – but Christmas is no time for complacency.