Eating a handful of nuts each day can significantly cut down six risk factors for heart disease, according to new University of Wollongong research.
Dr Lauren Houston, the author of the UOW study recently published in the Advances in Nutrition journal, said her research indicated the vast-majority of Australians needed to increase their intake of nuts.
Dr Houston, who is now a Research Fellow at the George Institute for Global Health Cardiovascular Program, said her study confirmed the previously known health benefits of nuts, as it has looked at randomised control trials which provide the highest level of scientific evidence.
"We brought together all the evidence within those studies and looked at if consuming nuts every day reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease," she said.
She said the research had found nuts improved six different biomarkers to create an overall protective benefit, reducing blood pressure, total cholesterol, bad cholesterol and different fats and proteins that increase heart disease risk and increasing good blood vessel health.
"This review identifies a direct causal link between an intake of 30g of nuts a day and a lower cardiovascular disease risk," she said.
"We've also observed a dose response that suggests eating more nuts results in an even greater reduction in total cholesterol. We found eating 60g a day, or two handfuls, provided the optimal benefit for total cholesterol reduction."
She said she wanted to "champion an increase in nut consumption," as cardiovascular disease was a leading cause of death and eating more nuts was a simple dietary change most Australians could make.
"I think it's really important the Australian population are nowhere near consuming the amount of nuts that we need them to consume," she said.
"Less than 6% of the population consume only 5g of nuts a day and we're advising people to get to 30 grams - that's quite a big jump and we really need to push for that increase for an overall health benefit."
"Nuts are really easy to incorporate in your diet, and 30 grams of nuts is actually only a handful of nuts and that can be easily consumed on top of breakfast cereal, as a morning or afternoon snack or on top of a salad at dinner."