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Go nuts the next time you snack

Leah Landry

Want to get your weight down and your health up? Maybe you've made a New Years resolution that says you're sticking to heart healthy foods and a guilt-free diet plan. Turns out the answer is nuts.

A recent study, in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that people who regularly eat nuts are 20 percent less likely to die from heart disease, respiratory disease or cancer. Registered dietitian Rachel Berman joined us to discuss the findings and to take a good look at the heart-healthy nut.

Click 'Read More' to hear our interview with Rachel Berman.

Berman, health editor at About.com and the author of both "Boosting Your Metabolism for Dummies" and "Mediterranean Diet for Dummies," says it's easy and beneficial to add nuts to your daily meals. Eating nuts seven times a week, whether they're in a salad, a bowl of oatmeal, or a sandwich made with nut butter, can improve your health and the nutrient quality of your diet.

All it takes is a daily serving of between one ounce and one and a half ounces of nuts like: pistachios, brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, peanuts or more -- as long as their raw or roasted. Nuts that are salted or coated in something like a glaze may not have the same effect. Berman says that you get enough heart-healthy, non-saturated fat in the nut itself, and you don't have to add anything.

Pay attention to serving size when incorporating nuts into your diet, as nuts vary greatly in size. One ounce of pistachios is about 48 kernels, for example. An ounce of almonds is 22 kernels, and an ounce of walnuts is about 14 halves.

Healthy nuts or health nuts?

The study followed men and women for decades, and was the most large-scale of its kind. Participants maintained a healthy weight during the study, and were able to incorporate necessary unsaturated fatty acids into their diets at the same time. There were also some other characteristics of the study's nut-eaters.

"People who eat more nuts were more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables, were also more likely to be physically active. So there definitely is this characteristic of a nut eater that is healthier overall," Berman said.

But, according to the study and Berman, variables were put in place to factor that overall healthier behavior out and those who ate nuts came out on top.