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Eat nuts and seeds to fight off disease: Healthy snacks should be added to 5-a-day guidance to boost nation’s – Daily Mail

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  • Studies have linked a daily handful of nuts to lower chances of cancer

Nuts and seeds should be added to the ‘5-a-day’ guidelines, a report suggests today.

The nutritional benefits of nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, and seeds including flax and poppy, are comparable to fruit and vegetables, it states.

But failure to promote them in public health campaigns means they are often ‘overlooked’ as a healthy food source.

Experts suggest incorporating them into the well-known ‘5-a-day’ mantra would increase the nation’s fibre intake, boosting overall health.

Studies have increasingly linked a daily handful of nuts and seeds to everything from lower chances of heart disease to cancer.

The nutritional benefits of nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, and seeds including flax and poppy, are comparable to fruit and vegetables, a report states

Experts suggest incorporating them into the well-known '5-a-day' mantra would increase the nation's fibre intake, boosting overall health

Studies have increasingly linked a daily handful of nuts and seeds to everything from lower chances of heart disease to cancer

While dried fruit is already counts, NHS guidelines state it ‘should be eaten at mealtimes, not as a between-meal snack, to reduce the risk of tooth decay’ and nuts and seeds do not feature.

Nutritionists argue this is overlooking the potential health benefits and out of step with other national dietary recommendations such as Denmark, Belgium and Germany.

They argue people should be encouraged to eat these ahead of other snacks, typically high in salt, fats and sugar, to reduce obesity and other disease.

Dr Max Gowland, biochemist and founder of the Prime Fifty range of nutritional health supplements and who authored the report, said the state of the nation’s health is in ‘dire need of improvement’.

He said: ‘The scientific data regarding the nutritional profiles of nuts, seeds and dried fruits is highly compelling.

‘It is entirely reasonable to assert that we should not only aim to increase our intake of nuts, seeds and dried fruits, but also explore ways to enhance the promotion of these products.

Dr Max Gowland (pictured), biochemist and founder of the Prime Fifty range of nutritional health supplements and who authored the report, said the state of the nation's health is in 'dire need of improvement'

Dr Gowland said: 'The scientific data regarding the nutritional profiles of nuts, seeds and dried fruits is highly compelling'

Nutritionists argue people should be encouraged to eat nuts and seeds ahead of other snacks, typically high in salt, fats and sugar, to reduce obesity and other disease

‘This increased consumption would undoubtedly result in an enhanced intake of essential micronutrients, beneficial saturated fats and increased dietary fibre consumption.’ Nuts have struggled to shake off an ‘unhealthy’ tag because of their high fat content, although most are now regarded as ‘good’ fats.

They are generally considered a nutrient-rich food providing fibre, protein, vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients that could help reduce the risk of heart and circulatory diseases.

A systematic review of nuts last year suggested eating more nuts reduced the chances of heart attack and stroke by more than a fifth.

The British Nutrition Foundation recommends a diet with more minimally processed and whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, pulses, nuts, seeds and wholegrains as the best approach for long-term health.

Chief Executive, Elaine Hindal, said: ‘These foods can play an important role in diets that follow the Eatwell Guide and are often overlooked when considering the gap between the amount of fibre we consume as a nation and the level of fibre known to be important to ensure general health.

Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology (pictured), King's College London, said it offers 'compelling evidence' about the pivotal role these foods could play in improving the nation's diet

Mr Spector said: 'This comprehensive review, supported by a large body of rigorous research, establishes a highly persuasive case for the inclusion of nuts, seeds and also dried fruits into our daily dietary practices'

Officials said that although they recognise nuts and seeds can form part of a healthy, balanced diet, they are not classified as a fruit or vegetable and therefore do not count towards the 5-a-day

‘Beyond the nutritional benefits of dried fruit, nuts and seeds in recommended quantities, we recognise they can have practical benefits as a convenient alternative to high fat, salt and sugar snacks on the go – an important element of overcoming common challenges in the UK diet.’ The report, commissioned by Whitworths, has been submitted as evidence to the review currently being undertaken by the Food, Diet and Obesity committee.

Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology, King’s College London, said it offers ‘compelling evidence’ about the pivotal role these foods could play in improving the nation’s diet.

He said: ‘This comprehensive review, supported by a large body of rigorous research, establishes a highly persuasive case for the inclusion of nuts, seeds and also dried fruits into our daily dietary practices.

‘Adding these foods to the recommended five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, swapping ultra processed snacks for these wholefoods, coupled with a significant government-led awareness campaign could shift the UK towards the consumption of beneficial, health-enhancing nutrients away from ultra processed snacks.’ 

Officials said that although they recognise nuts and seeds can form part of a healthy, balanced diet, they are not classified as a fruit or vegetable and therefore do not count towards the 5-a-day.

The NHS Food Scanner App – which has been downloaded more than five million times – is used to help people see what is in their food and drinks and encourages them to make healthier choices by suggesting alternatives to foods such as breakfast cereals, ready meals, biscuits, crisps, and fizzy drinks.

A government spokesperson added: ‘We encourage everyone to maintain a healthy balanced diet which includes at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day.’

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