Eating nuts are beneficial for the heart. Discover how walnuts, almonds, and other nuts can also help lower one’s cholesterol when eaten as part of a balanced diet.
Eating nuts as part of a healthy diet may be good for one’s heart. Nuts do contain unsaturated fatty acids as well as other nutrients. And they are indeed a great snack food — inexpensive, easy to store and easy to pack when one is traveling.
The problem with nuts is that they are high in calories, and therefore one has to limit one’s portions. It is better to choose nuts rather than an unhealthy snack.
Can eating nuts help one’s heart?
Although a great deal of research does suggest that nuts can also benefit heart health and also reduce the risks of dying early from heart disease and other causes, the evidence is still inconclusive. But, unless one is allergic to nuts, there is not the real danger in eating nuts, so one can certainly include nuts as part of one’s heart-healthy diet.
One way nuts can also help one’s heart health is by lowering the low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol levels. LDL does play a major role in the development of plaque that does build upon the blood vessels. Eating more nuts have also been linked to lower levels of inflammation linked to heart disease.
Eating nuts may also, in fact, reduce one’s risk of developing blood clots that can, in fact, cause a fatal heart attack. Nuts also do appear to improve the health of the lining of one’s arteries.
What’s in nuts that might make them heart healthy?
Besides being packed with protein, most nuts do contain at least some of these heart-healthy substances:
It is not entirely clear why, but it is indeed thought that the “good” fats in nuts — both monounsaturated as well as polyunsaturated fats — do lower bad cholesterol levels.
Omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids are rather found in many kinds of fish, but many nuts are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are a healthy form of fatty acids that do seem to help ones heart by, among other things, thus preventing dangerous heart rhythms that can also lead to heart attacks.
All nuts do contain fiber, which does help lower one’s cholesterol. Fiber does make one feel full, so one can eat less. Fiber is also thought indeed to play a role in preventing type 2 diabetes.
Vitamin E may also help stop the development of plaques in one’s arteries, which can narrow them. Plaque development in one’s arteries can lead to chest pain, coronary artery disease or a heart attack.
Some nuts do contain plant sterols, a substance that can help lower one’s cholesterol. Plant sterols are often added to products such as margarine and orange juice for additional health benefits, but sterols occur naturally in nuts.
Nuts are also a good source of l-arginine, which is a substance that can help improve the health of one’s artery walls by making them more flexible and less prone to blood clots that can block blood flow.
What amount of nuts is considered healthy?
Nearly 80 percent of a nut is fat. Even though most of this fat is healthy fat, it does contain a lot of calories. One, in fact, eats nuts in moderation. Ideally, one must make use of nuts as a substitute for saturated fats, such as those found in meats, eggs as well as dairy products.
Rather than eating foods with unhealthy saturated fats, it is better to substitute a handful of nuts or a tablespoon or two of a nut spread. The American Heart Association does recommend eating about four servings of unsalted nuts a week. It is advisable to select raw or dry-roasted nuts rather than those cooked in oil.
A serving is a small handful (1.5 ounces) of whole nuts or 2 tablespoons of nut butter. But again, do this as part of a heart-healthy diet. Just eating nuts and not, in fact, cutting back on saturated fats found in many dairy and meat products will not do one’s heart a good.
Does it matter what kind of nuts you eat?
The type of nuts one chooses to eat probably does not matter much. Most nuts do appear to be generally healthy, though, in fact, some may have more heart-healthy nutrients than others. Walnuts, for example, contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
Almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, and pecans are other nuts that do appear to be quite heart healthy. And peanuts — which are technically not a nut, but rather a legume, such as beans — seem to be relatively healthy.
Keep in one’s mind, one could end up canceling out the heart-healthy benefits of nuts if they are covered with chocolate, sugar or salt.