If you're at your desk, snacking on one of those giant jars of peanuts, take heart: You're also extending your life. A paper from the International Journal of Epidemiology reveals that a steady daily diet of various nuts can protect you against an array of different diseases, including cancer and diabetes. Men and women from The Netherlands, ages 55-69, were tracked over a 29-year period, and had their food consumption assessed throughout.  

"It was remarkable that substantially lower mortality was already observed at consumption levels of 15 grams of nuts or peanuts on average per day (half a handful). A higher intake was not associated with further reduction in mortality risk," said professor Piet van den Brandt.

So, eating a very small portion of peanuts or other nuts each day can significantly impact longevity. But before you go running out to the grocery store, I have to tell you something rather distressing: Peanut butter was not among the foods that were observed to increase longevity. That's right: While peanuts can benefit your health, you'd be wise not to consume them in the delicious, spreadable form that so many of us love.

My love of peanut butter goes beyond the typical enjoyment. Not only do I consume peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches on a regular basis, but also I've been known to prepare dinners that just consist of a jar of Peter Pan and a spoon. Unsurprisingly, though, not all the good stuff inside that jar is natural. Most peanut butters have a bit of added sugar, as well as salt and trans fats. Natural peanut butter (the kind you have to stir when you open the jar) does not have these added ingredients, but is awfully harsh to eat without some jelly or chocolate to take the edge off. 

Next time you feel guilty about your constant workday snacking, remind yourself that nuts are a perfectly healthy option. But remember the peanut butter problem: too much salt, oil, and sugar will cancel all of that healthiness right out. So don't make too much of a mess picking the M&Ms out of your trail mix.

Visit ScienceDaily for more, and check out George Blackburn's advice on designing a healthy diet: