Nutfruit Magazine

The official voice of the INC

19 July, 2021 Feature Articles

Nuts and Dried Fruits for Diet Quality and Immune Health: Evidence and Suggestions from the Scientific Literature

Nuts and Dried Fruits for Diet Quality and Immune Health: Evidence and Suggestions from the Scientific Literature

Nuts and dried fruits have been for years the subject of clinical studies evidencing their role in promoting health. But what about their effects on immunity? Prof. Alessandra Bordoni addressed the topic during Nutrimi, the 15th Italian Forum of Practical Nutrition. 

By Prof. Alessandra Bordoni, MD, PhD

Prof. Alessandra Bordoni, MD, PhD works as an Associate Professor at the University of Bologna, Italy, in the Department of Agri-Food Sciences and Technologies. She is Chair of the Nucis Italia Scientific Committee.

The immune system is a set of highly specialized organs and cells defending the body from external agents. Diet plays a crucial role, together with age and exposure to antigens, in supporting immunity defenses. Several nutritional principles help the normal development and function of the immune system: proteins, especially plant-based ones, omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber, vitamins C, A and E, minerals such as magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium and, recently, also polyphenols.
Since nuts are a source of proteins, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-3, vitamin E and polyphenols, we can assume their important role for the immune function. They are also high in fiber, facilitating the production of SCFAs (Short Chain Fatty Acids) and influencing intestinal mucosa immunity.
Furthermore, nuts are among the main dietary sources of melatonin, which seems to have a positive effect on the immune system by modulating the production of various mediators.
Mineral content is important: walnuts, hazelnuts and pistachios are a source of magnesium, zinc and copper, while hazelnuts and pistachios are also a source of vitamin B6, and pine nuts and cashews are respectively a good source of zinc and selenium. Dried fruits can also contribute with their high concentrations of vitamin A, vitamin C and fiber.
Despite this favorable nutritional composition, there are no clinical trials highlighting a specific positive effect related to increased intakes of nuts and dried fruits on immune function. However, several studies highlight the positive effect of the Mediterranean diet, which these precious fruits are part of. The COVID-19 pandemic has also underlined the importance of the Mediterranean diet against viral infections, which are characterized by impaired immune function and a reduction in micronutrient reserves, in particular vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, folate, zinc, iron, selenium, magnesium and copper. The intake of these micronutrients improves our immune system in several ways, representing an important means of antiviral prevention, even against COVID-19.
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