July 26, 2012

Lowering Cholesterol Eating Nuts

Nuts such as walnuts (pictured above) are rich...

Nuts such as walnuts (pictured above) are rich sources of micronutrients and protein. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I think of lowering cholesterol I think of the Paleolithic diet – the foods our ancestors ate long ago. What did they eat 10,000 or more years ago? The answer is simple – fruits, berries, nuts, and animals when they were lucky enough to kill one. It wasn’t fast food that’s for sure. Our bodies and physiologies were developed at that time on those foods. Our physiologies might not have changed over time, but our eating habits have.

Today most people shy away from nuts because of their fat content and consequent high calories. Eating nuts in reasonable amounts will not increase your weight. The secret to incorporating nuts in your diet is to substitute them in place of less heart-friendly snacks such as potato chips, donuts, cup cakes, etc. Not to add them to your existing diet.

Three ounces of pistachios (about two handfuls) have 400 calories. If you are eating 2,000 calories a day this makes up 20 percent of your caloric intake. However, the fats in nuts are the more heart friendly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, and nuts have no cholesterol. The monounsaturates with some polyunsaturates in nuts make an ideal combination of fats which have been linked to improving cholesterol levels and promoting heart health.

Many studies have shown that HDL good cholesterol levels have been boosted and LDL bad cholesterol and total cholesterol levels have been reduced when nuts were added to the test subjects’ diets. Also levels of triglycerides (blood fats) have been shown to be reduced by eating nuts.

Each type of nut will have varying levels of the following, but generally nuts contain:

o Low levels of saturated fats.

o High levels of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

o All have No cholesterol.

o Dietary fiber.

o Plant protein, which makes them a good alternative to meat; nuts are also high in the amino acid arginine.

o Vitamins E, B6, niacin and folic acid.

o Minerals such as magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, copper, selenium and potassium.

Exceptions: consumption of coconuts, palm nuts – these nuts have the highest levels of saturated fat and their consumption should be limited. Brazil nuts, macadamias, cashews and pine nuts also contain large amounts of saturated fats relative to remaining nuts.

Peanuts are really not a nut, but a legume. They have a high level of folate (lowers the risk of heart disease) and are high in fiber. Peanuts may cause allergies in some people.

Some nuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids which are also found in fish. These fatty acids improve the health of artery walls and help prevent blood clots.

One study showed that people with high total cholesterol and LDL concentrations found eating almonds to be especially effective in reducing these levels.

When you purchase nuts try to get them with no salt added or lightly salted (if you are not salt sensitive). Nuts by themselves have only trace amounts of sodium.

Probably the best advice is to have a handful (nine to 15 nuts) of a variety of nuts daily, especially walnuts and almonds.

Only buy nuts that are natural or dry roasted without added oils or heavily salted.

A handful of nuts equals about one ounce and this is the serving size shown on most
‘Nutrition Facts’ panels on food labels.

Vegetarians, who avoid red meat, need to eat nuts almost daily because nuts are a good substitute for meat (they contain protein, fat, iron, zinc and niacin). For example, ½ cup of nuts or two tablespoons of peanut butter are roughly equivalent to a serving of meat.

As long as you control your total calories, eating a handful of nuts daily should help prevent weight gain. The fat, protein and fiber in nuts help you feel full longer, so you eat less during the day.

At snack time try a handful of nuts instead of a donut or sticky bun. You’ll be eating heart-healthy food, helping to lower your cholesterol, and not gaining weight. Remember to limit your portion to a handful.

In summary, nuts have been a part of our diet since the dawn of time. They contain many beneficial nutrients. They have been shown to lower total cholesterol, LDL bad cholesterol, and triglycerides, and raise HDL good cholesterol levels. With the exception of four or five nuts which are high in saturated fat, most of their fat content is heart friendly. They are high in calories. This is not a problem if they are substituted in the daily diet for other less heart-friendly snacks like sticky buns, donuts, potato ships, etc. A handful of mixed nuts a day is all that is needed to lower your cholesterol provided you consider these calories in your daily total you should not gain weight.

Tim Lazaro is a nutrition scholar and competitive, masters runner who writes on issues related to heart health, natural-food diets, and aerobic exercise. By employing the diets and life-style changes that he writes about, he has lowered his total cholesterol and lost weight. If you want to learn more about lowering your cholesterol, download his Free guide here: Five Secrets to Lowering Cholesterol

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  1. Good day! Good article, I think the visitors might be useful information on this topic on the site

    Comment by Alex — July 26, 2012 @ 6:47 am

  2. Your site has useful content. All the best with it!

    Comment by caribbeanandworldrecipes — July 27, 2012 @ 1:01 am

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