Should breast cancer survivors eat nuts?


Small but mighty, nuts are packed with fiber, protein, minerals, antioxidants and healthy fats. Nuts are also very calorie-dense food, meaning they pack a lot of calories in a small portion! Many people avoid nuts for fear they are “fattening.” However, intervention trials and observational studies consistently link nut intake with less weight gain and less likelihood to develop obesity. They can be a healthy snack or nutritious addition in your meals.

What about nuts and breast cancer survivors? A recent study examined the association of nut consumption (peanuts, walnuts and other nuts) with overall and disease-free survival in 3,449 five-year breast cancer survivors in the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study.* Women who reported regular nut consumption in a dietary assessment five years after their breast cancer diagnosis had higher overall and disease-free survival rates compared to women who reported no nut consumption. The type of nut consumed did not matter in their findings, but the beneficial association of eating nuts was found for disease-free survival and for women with early-stage (1 or 2) breast cancer. The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, reported about a 50% reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence, metastasis or mortality among women who eat nuts regularly. It should be noted that this was an observational study showing association not causation, but it means that nuts may be a good thing to keep or add to your diet after a breast cancer diagnosis.

Keep in mind that nuts are concentrated in calories. You get about 160-200 calories in just one ounce – a small handful or a portion about the size of an egg. Healthy ways to incorporate nuts in your diet include adding them to other nutrient-rich, cancer-protective foods such as:

  • Adding a handful of nuts to hot or cold whole-grain cereal and yogurt
  • Topping salads with nuts in place of croutons as a healthy way to add crunch
  • Tossing nuts into stir-fried vegetables or cooked grains like brown rice or quinoa
  • Combining nuts with dried fruit for a portable trail mix snack.

Here are a few recipes with nuts to try:
Pecan Pie Skillet Granola – This small batch granola featuring pecans is made on the stovetop instead of in the oven.
Basil, Spinach and Walnut Pesto or Pistachio Arugula Pesto – Walnuts or pistachios replace traditional pine nuts in these pesto recipes.
Maple Walnut Buttermilk Smoothie – A surprisingly delicious combination of ingredients leads to a high protein, probiotic-rich smoothie.
Peanut Snack Mix – A sweet and salty mix for an afternoon snack.

Forge is delighted to partner with Laura Rutledge, MA, RDN, CSO, a Registered Dietician Nutritionist who focuses on oncology nutrition for during and after cancer diagnosis and treatment. For more information and recipes from Laura check out Nourishing Plate. You can find additional blogs from Laura on Forge’s blog!

*Wang C, Gu K, et al. Nut consumption in association with overall mortality and recurrence/disease-specific mortality among long-term breast cancer survivors. Int J Cancer. 2022; 150(4):572-579.