Nuts and Cancer Prevention

Increasingly people are recognizing that whole foods are essential in maintaining good health and preventing chronic diseases like cancer. Nutrition rich foods such as nuts have an important role to play. While there are multiple factors that can contribute to cancers developing and growing, researchers now understand more of its mechanisms. This knowledge is now enabling them to study the effects that foods such as nuts can have on preventing and treating cancers.



Understanding cancer formation


“Cancer is a disease that is characterized by the loss of genetic control over cell growth and proliferation.”  In other words, cancer forms when cells start to malfunction, mutate or grow in an exponential and abnormal way so as to affect organ, muscle or bone function. It is generally accepted that increased levels of toxicity are at the root cause of this. Emotional, environmental, and lifestyle stresses together with poor nutrition can all raise the levels of toxicity in the body.


How whole foods such as nuts inhibit cancers


There are several studies showing that good nutrition based on eating whole foods containing lots of healthy oils and nutrients can help prevent toxicity, which can ultimately lead to cancers. For example: The Mediterranean diet, that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, organ meats, legumes and nuts, has shown positive results in studies related to cancer. Researchers believe that this combination of nutrition rich foods has an important role to play in good health and prevention of chronic diseases.  In particular, nuts, because of their high content of monounsaturated fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, top the list of healthy foods to eat.


Food compounds found in nuts that play a preventative role


In studies, several compounds found in whole foods have been found to help prevent cancer. Specifically different types of nuts are being researched in relation to their cancer fighting properties. Nuts contain all of the following food compounds that can aid in preventing cancer:


1.      Monounsaturated Fatty Acids in nuts


Fats perform an important role in the body on a cellular level and aid in the absorption of vitamins and minerals. But more importantly fat is required to build healthy cell membranes and sheath nerve fibers. Monounsaturated fats are considered the healthiest types of fats and nuts are rich in monounsaturated fats. Preliminary studies have shown that foods such as nuts that contain high levels of these fats can have a preventative effect in terms of chronic disease. Specifically hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts and pistachios all contain high levels of monounsaturated fats.


2.      Nuts and Selenium


Cashews, Brazil nuts and walnuts are all an excellent source of selenium. Researchers have identified that when people have low levels of selenium in their body, there is an increased risk of cancer and heart disease. Conversely selenium rich foods such as nuts can have cancer preventative properties. Selenium has an important antioxidant role that helps to protect against oxidative stress.  


3.      Nuts containing Vitamin E


Sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts are very good sources of vitamin E. Vitamin E helps to regulate cell normal cell growth and therefore keeps abnormal cells that could become cancerous in check. Eating nuts containing vitamin E provides powerful antioxidants that help reduce oxidative stress and damage to cells.


4.      Folic Acid in nuts


Nuts and seeds with a high concentration of folic acid include: Almonds, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, cashews, walnuts and pistachios. DNA controls cell function and in order for DNA to function correctly it needs the input of folic acid. Therefore it is important to ensure that you are consuming enough folic acid rich foods such as nuts so that your DNA is able to function efficiently.


5.      Nuts a source of Vegetable fiber


Consuming sufficient fiber is important in cancer prevention. Fiber helps to aid digestion and ensure a healthy flow of digested food through the intestines. Nuts and seeds are a very good source of vegetable fiber, specifically: walnuts, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.


6.      Isoflavanoids in nuts


Studies have identified that there is a lower risk in cancer in countries consuming more vegetables containing certain isoflvanoids. In China and Japan soya is regularly consumed and the plant isoflavanoids are believed to be the link reducing cancer risk in these countries. Similar studies have been conducted with seeds and nuts containing isoflavanoids which have shown a moderate risk reduction of breast cancer. Hazelnuts and Brazil nuts contain these isoflavanoids.



Nuts are a very rich source of nutrition that have cancer fighting capabilities. With the exception of those people who have known nut allergies, nuts and nut butters provide good nutrition for all. Nuts are nutritious and filling, plus they provide important nutrients to help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease or cancer.


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