Nuts are generally a snack pretty high in calories, but a small serving every day has tremendous health benefits. Nuts are rich in minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and protein, and some of them even contain good fats. But are they good for cholesterol?
The overall benefits of nut consumption
When you hear the phrase “good fat”, it actually means unsaturated fat, the kind you get from foods such as nuts. Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, they’re all rich in good cholesterol, or HDL for short. They have also been linked to lower LDL levels.
As you may already know, LDL is the “bad guy”, the cholesterol that gets stuck to the artery walls, causing them to become narrower and stiffer. This leads to a number of issues, including blood clot formations that could block the arteries and cut the blood supply to some of your body’s most important organs.
HDL, on the other hand, works to remove this bad cholesterol from your body, meaning that the more HDL you have in your body, the better. Even the medication that people take to improve their cholesterol levels sometimes works to raise those HDL levels.
Visceral fat is one of the causes of metabolic syndrome, as well as for type 2 diabetes.
Walnuts have long been studied because of their omega-3 fatty acid content. These healthy fats, as they are sometimes called, are normally found in fish, which is a very important part of a low-cholesterol diet. In fact, fish meat is the healthiest choice out of all the meats one can consume, cholesterol-wise. Omega-3 fatty acids can regulate heart rhythm, lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels, but also slow the rate of artery-clogging.
Aside from being a good source of healthy fats, nuts also offer the following health benefits:
- They are rich in potassium, which helps reduce the effect of salt in the body. Furthermore, a diet rich in potassium regulates the electrical activity of the heart, and also improved the manner in which carbohydrates are broken down inside the body.
- They contain vitamin E, which is an antioxidant beneficial for your body’s metabolism, also keeping the cells protected.
- Nuts have folic acid, which works to reduce the total and LDL cholesterol levels in your body. Folic acid also contributed to growing new and healthy cells.
- They contain arginine, an amino acid that aids the body in producing nitric oxide, which helps your blood vessels relax, thus facilitating blood circulation.
Nuts and cholesterol
Aside from all the nuts listed above, a surprising category in terms of health benefits is the peanut. Peanuts are healthy for your heart, as they are low in saturated fats and rich in unsaturated ones. Because of that, they promote heart health.
However, farmers have begun cultivating high-oleic peanuts, which are even better for your health because they are even lower in saturated fats and richer in unsaturated fats. The FDA is currently giving approval to these peanuts, so that they may receive a special “heart healthy” label.
In a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, a comparison was made between the benefits of consuming roasted nuts compared to raw ones. 72 people participated in this study and consumed both raw and roasted nuts over a duration of 28 days. At the beginning and the end of the trial, their blood pressure and cholesterol levels were measures.
All the participants in the study have improved blood pressure and HDL levels at the end of the experiment, regardless of the type of nuts they consumed.
The Journal of Nutrition published its own nut-related study. In this study, they compared the results of following a normal low-cholesterol diet, with a diet that replaced a fifth of the calories ingested with nuts. By the end of the study, people who consumed pecans as part of their diet had their triglyceride levels lowered by about 11 percent, and their LDL cholesterol lowered by 10.4 percent. In addition to that, they have 5.6 more good cholesterol.
When and how much?
Naturally, eating nuts from dawn until dusk will not have a great impact on your health. As a general rule, about a handful of nuts per day should suffice. That’s the equivalent of one to one and a half ounces.
Because of their rich fiber content, nuts are very filling, so make sure you don’t overdo it. Even if they are beneficial, nuts are also high in calories, so you are likely to gain weight if you eat too many every day.
To get the best out of introducing nuts to your cholesterol-lowering diet, replace nuts with meats that are high in saturated fats. This replaced the calories you get from those meat, while adding the health advantages of nuts.
They can be consumed as a snack, mixed up with low-fat yogurt, or even added as ingredients into a salad. Make sure that you opt for nuts that aren’t salted, as sodium is a threat to your blood pressure levels. You can purchase way nuts and consume them, or you can roast them and add them to certain foods.