The festive season may be over, but there is at least one Christmas treat worth making a habit of eating throughout the year - walnuts.

Scientists have discovered they are the healthiest nuts to eat as they are loaded with antioxidants. Snacking on as few as seven a day could help ward off disease and lower cholesterol, they claim.

Walnuts contain very high levels of polyphenol, an anti- oxidant which can protect the body from molecules which damage tissue.

Walnuts contained the most polyphenol out of a list of nine commonly eaten types of nuts, tests revealed. Brazil nuts and pistachios were close behind, and cashews and hazelnuts had slightly lower levels of antioxidants.


Professor Joe Vinson, from the University of Scranton, Pennsylvania, said walnuts inhibit the growth of 'bad' cholesterol. Despite the 'superfood' potential of walnuts, peanuts are the favourite with consumers and account for 45 per cent of the nuts bought in Europe.

The antioxidants in peanut butter were considerably lower than roasted peanuts, the study found.

Dr Vinson said many people were put off by the seemingly high fat content of nuts, but they contained only polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats, rather than artery-clogging saturated fats.

He added: "Nuts are a nutritious snack providing both nutrients and bioactive antioxidants which provide significant health benefits."

Nuts can also reduce the risk of heart disease, some cancers and type-2 diabetes.