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Eat more nuts this holiday season — you might just live longer

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A recent Harvard study contends that people who regularly eat nuts have less risk to heart disease and cancer.

The holidays are upon us, that time of year when we’re constantly reminded not to indulge too much in the oh-so-good mountains of food that seem be forced upon us at every turn. But here’s some really good news — those nut treats actually could help you live longer, so eat up.

While nuts have long been considered heart-healthy, a new Harvard University study contends that regular nut eaters are less likely to die of cancer or heart disease. In fact, the study says that people who eat nuts are less likely to die of any cause than those who never ate nuts.

The 30-year study is the largest ever done on whether eating nuts affects mortality, tracking 119,000 men and women. Those who ate nuts roughly every day were 20 percent less likely to die during the study period than those who never ate nuts. Also, eating nuts less often lowered the death risk, in direct proportion to consumption.

For the participants in the study, the risk of dying from heart disease dropped by 29 percent while the risk of dying of cancer fell 11 percent among those who ate nuts seven or more times a week compared with people who never ate them.

Published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study found that participants who often ate nuts were healthier — they weighed less, exercised more and were less likely to smoke, among other things. After taking these and other things into account, researchers still saw a strong benefit from nuts.

The study is especially good news for U.S. peanut farmers, though in all fairness, the benefits were also seen from pistachios, almonds, walnuts and other tree nuts.

The research is the latest boost for peanuts, which appear to be enjoying a renaissance of sorts among consumers. The supply-and-demand balance sheet for U.S. peanuts remains tilted against maximum profitability for producers, but consumption remains strong, enhanced by a bevy of new products.

Have you walked down the nut aisle lately at your local Wal-Mart or Publix? There are nuts mixes for almost every conceivable health benefits…energy, hearth health, good nutrition and on and on. Seeing the trend, the National Peanut Board recently approved a new brand platform for 2014 — “The Perfectly Powerful Peanut” — based on consumer trends towards health and wellness.

So, for your health, eat more nuts this holiday season. The fact that they also taste good is just icing on cake.

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