Are you keeping off heart healthy nuts because you're afraid of putting on weight? If you are, you are missing out on a huge amount of benefits not only for your heart but for a host of other conditions.
'Eat a few nuts a day as an antidote to heart disease' suggests Dr. Gary Fraser, Ph.D., cardiovascular disease physician at Loma Linda (California) University.
He found in his studies that heart healthy nuts stood as the number one food among those who don't suffer heart attacks.
Those who munched on nuts at least five times a week had roughly half the chance of heart attack coronary death as those who ate less than once a week. Even snacking on nuts once a week appeared to cut heart disease risk about 25%.
Researchers who studied data from the Nurses' Health Study estimated that substituting nuts for an equivalent amount of carbohydrate in an average diet resulted in a 30% reduction in heart disease risk.
Researchers calculated an even more impressive risk reduction (45%) when fat from nuts was substituted for saturated fats (found primarily in meat and dairy products).
Heart healthy nuts contain mono-unsaturated fats, similar to the fats contained in olive oil, which is well known to counteract heart disease.
Nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, pistachio, walnuts and macadamia have been shown to lower 'bad' LDL cholesterol, raise 'good' HDL cholesterol, lower triglycerides and reduced atherosclerotic lesions formed in the aorta.
Pecan and pistachio nuts also contain a significant amount of plant sterols, which have been widely researched for their cholesterol-lowering effects.
By competing with cholesterol for absorption from the intestine, beta-sitosterol and other plant sterols have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol by 10 to 14%.
Many nuts, such as pistachios and cashews, are a very good source of magnesium and potassium, two minerals that protect against high blood pressure.
Brazil nuts contain high amounts of selenium, which has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Nuts in general but especially walnuts are a very good source of arginine, an amino acid which is converted into nitric oxide, a chemical that allows blood vessels to relax, remain smooth and prevent platelet aggregation, thereby improving blood flow.
Nuts are also an excellent source of antioxidants, including vitamin E and flavonoids, which exert a protective effect on the arteries and prevent lipid peroxidation.
Since nuts are high in fat, although most of it is beneficial fat, you can't eat nuts with abandon if you are concerned about your weight.
But in Dr Fraser study, however, enthusiastic nut-eaters were less obese than non-nut eaters.
A sensible amount would be an ounce or two a day (25-50g) or about a handful a day.
The best thing to do is to eat heart healthy nuts as a substitute for other sources of fat and calories.
There's so much more to say on the health benefits of nuts, so click on the link and you can read much more on their healing power.
Also, read about the Different Types of Nuts and what each one of them can do for you.
Or go on to the next article in the Heart Disease Series.
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