Quick: What do Paleo dieters, hardcore vegans, and tree squirrels all agree on?
Okay, you had to see that coming. But seriously: Over the last decade, R.D.s and nutritionists have revealed that nuts and seeds are on top of the heap of whole foods you should be eating everyday. These calorie-dense nuggets of antioxidant action—these protein-packed pieces of power—should be making it into your mouth one daily handful at a time. Eating nuts consistently (and consciously) is perfect for pumping up heart protection, warding off obesity, and keeping clear of diabetes.
It gets better, too. Researchers have discovered that enzymes in nuts—macadamias, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, and pistachios, in this case for this experiment—stimulate protective, free-radical-busting chemicals after being broken down by digestion, according to a new study published in the journal Molecular Carcinogenesis. The two enzymes, catalase and superoxide dismutase, slowed the growth of colon cancer cells and increased programmed cell death in the cancer cells by up to 8% when the nuts were artificially digested in test tubes. “We were able to show this effect is mediated by all the types of nuts studied,” said study lead Michael Glei, Ph.D.
Up next is research to find out whether roasting nuts has any affect on the cancer cell-killing properties of the nuts initially tested, said the study authors, since most nuts are eaten roasted and not raw.
For a rundown on the eight different nuts you should be adding to your diet, check out our rundown of eight nuts’ unique health benefits—and since they can be heavy on the calories and mess up your daily macros if you aren’t careful, peruse our guide to adding them into your diet.