You probably know that nuts are great for your health. But did you know they can cut your risk of dying from disease by 19%?

It's true. A recent study found that consuming nut butter or peanut butter just once a week cut the hazard ratio from 1.00 to 0.89. (Hazard ratio of death is the risk of death.)

But it gets even better. When the participants ate the nut butter or peanut butter one to four times per week, their risk of dying fell even further - to 0.81. That's a 19% drop! Better still, they found the nut butter significantly reduced the risk of dying from heart disease.

Why are nuts so good for you? Walnuts, pecans, and chestnuts are among the plants richest in antioxidants. Walnuts rank first. Other nuts are valuable as well. And I love nut butters because they're made from the raw nuts and they taste great.

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If you don't go for nuts, consider chickpeas (garbanzos). Researchers recently discovered that they significantly lower serum total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels (3.9 and 4.6%, respectively compared to controls supplemented with wheat). There must be some magic to chickpeas. They are primarily a carbohydrate. So you would ordinarily expect a significant rise in carb intake to adversely affect these numbers. But they obviously don't have that effect. This is one carb you can eat without guilt.

Action to take: Again and again, the most effective way to reduce your risk involves the least amount of money - food! Think of adding fresh raw nuts to your diet. In the case of chestnuts, I have no problem with roasting them as the song croons. If you want it in the form of nut butter, be sure it is freshly ground and organic. I'm not happy with most commercial brands of peanut butter. Most are loaded with sugar! So read labels carefully.

Ref: "Health benefits of nuts: potential role of antioxidants," Blomhoff R, Carlsen MH, et al, Br J Nutr, 2006; 96 Suppl 2: S52-60.

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