Nuts are more than just peanut butter in your sandwich, almonds in your oatmeal or pecans in your holiday pie. Nowadays, nuts are conveniently offered in snack packages, in bulk in grocery store bins, and in cans and jars. Nuts offer heart health and fiber benefits aside from the rich taste and crunch.
Although some people have nut allergies, and must not eat nuts, select health studies have shown that individuals who eat nuts up to five times weekly had up to a 51% decrease in risk of death from coronary heart disease (CHD). Nuts lower serum total and LDL ("bad") cholesterol concentrations in people with normal or elevated serum cholesterol.
Almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts. pecans, pistachios and walnuts have this cholesterol lowering effect. Macadamia nuts were highest in monounsaturated fatty acids with 16.7 grams per ounce, followed by hazelnuts, or filberts, with 12.9 grams. In polyunsaturated fatty acids, black walnuts come in at 9.9 grams per ounce and pine nuts or pignoli have 9.7 grams.
Additionally, frequent nut and seed consumption was associated with lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers in a multi-ethnic population. Although the evidence is circumstantial, these findings suggest that compounds in nuts may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by decreasing inflammation.
By approving the following qualified health claim for nuts, these impressive study results are acknowledged by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as evidence of a relationship between nut consumption and cardiovascular disease risk: "Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease."
Bioactive compounds in nuts that may contribute to their cholesterol-lowering effects include fiber and phytosterols. Other nut nutrients that may contribute to the cardioprotective effects include folate, vitamin E and potassium.
Try something different and easy. Put almond or hazelnut butter on your whole grain toast; sprinkle macadamia nuts in your breakfast oatmeal, slivered almonds to your pasta or stir-fry, pecans to a festive salad, and walnuts to your holiday pie and banana bread . . . or simply place a bowl pistachios on your kitchen counter for a good tasting and healthy snack. Nuts protect your heart and add needed fiber with a bonus of taste, crunch and joy to many meals.
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