Nuts: a heart healthy source of protein

A recent in-depth study by Harvard University suggests that a shift in protein sources can have a major impact on the incidence of heart diseases. Consuming more nuts and fish instead of red meat was linked to a significant decrease in heart problems.

The Harvard team analysed the data of 84,136 women aged 30 to 55 years to find this association between the intake of normal protein sources (such as red meat, poultry, fish and nuts) and heart diseases. The women participated in the Nurses’ Health Study in which their health and diet were followed for 26 years. In the study period more than 3,000 cases of heart diseases were documented and linked to the dietary data.

Highest significant reduction

The researchers found a pronounced link between protein sources and heart health, with nuts linked to the highest significant reduction in disease risk as compared to red meat intake. One serving of nuts per day was associated with a 30% lower risk of heart disease compared to one serving of red meat.

Other sources of protein than red meat reduced the heart disease risk similarly, but to a lesser extent than nuts. One daily portion of low fat dairy was linked to a 13% lower risk, one portion of poultry to a 19% lower risk and one portion of fish to a 24% lower risk. It was the first study comparing the effect of all these different protein sources on heart health in such a large group.

Sustainable strategy

Eating less meat and switching to a diet with more nuts and fish is an easy strategy to improve your heart health. Did you know it is also a good way to reduce your personal impact on the environment? Red meat has one of the highest carbon footprints of all protein sources!


Bernstein AM, Sun Q, Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE, Willett WC. Major dietary protein sources and risk of coronary heart disease in women. Circulation. 2010;122: 876-883.