- Marilyn Buckley, CHHC
NUTS AND HEART HEALTH
Consuming healthy nuts as part of your regular diet can, in fact be very beneficial for your heart.
Nuts are a healthy snack option – within reason as they are high in calories, so to be sure you are consuming them as a healthy option you want to measure them out and consume no more than ¼ cup a day. It is important to completely chew nuts to almost a paste texture and then swallow. This allows the fiber to be broken down. The fiber holds the nutrients in. The more you break up the fibers, the more nutrients are available for out body to readily absorb.
Though they’re usually high in fat, the fat they contain is a healthy type. They're also good sources of fiber and protein.
Many studies have shown that nuts provide various health benefits — especially, in regards to reducing heart disease risk factors.
So, what exactly makes nuts heart healthy? Well besides being packed with protein, most nuts do contain at least some of the heart healthy substances:
Unsaturated fats. It's not entirely clear why, but it's thought that the "good" fats in nuts — both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats — lower bad cholesterol levels.
Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are 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 seem to help your heart by, among other things, preventing dangerous heart rhythms that can lead to heart attacks.
Fiber. All nuts contain fiber, which helps lower your cholesterol. Fiber makes you feel full, so you eat less. Fiber is also thought to play a role in preventing type 2 diabetes.
Vitamin E. Vitamin E may help stop the development of plaques in your arteries, which can narrow them. Plaque development in your arteries can lead to chest pain, coronary artery disease or a heart attack.
Plant sterols. Some nuts contain plant sterols, a substance that can help lower your cholesterol. Plant sterols are often added to products like margarine and orange juice for additional health benefits, but sterols occur naturally in nuts.
L-arginine. Nuts are also a source of l-arginine, which is a substance that may help improve the health of your artery walls by making them more flexible and less prone to blood clots that can block blood flow.
The following nutritional information on some of the most common types of nuts are based on a 1 ounce measurement.
Almonds are tree nuts that contain a number of beneficial nutrients.
One serving — 28 grams or a small handful — packs roughly:
Calories: 161 Fat: 14 grams Protein: 6 grams Carbs: 6 grams Fiber: 3.5 grams Vitamin E: 37% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) Magnesium: 19% of the RDI
Almonds may improve cholesterol levels.
Pistachios are a commonly consumed nut that is high in fiber.
A one-ounce (28-gram) serving of pistachios contains roughly:
Calories: 156 Fat: 12.5 gramsProtein: 6 grams Carbs: 8 grams Fiber: 3 gramsVitamin E: 3% of the RDI Magnesium: 8% of the RDI
Similarly to almonds, pistachios may improve cholesterol levels — eating 2–3 ounces (56–84 grams) of pistachios a day may help increase "good" HDL cholesterol.
Walnuts are a very popular nut and an excellent source of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid.
A one-ounce (28-gram) serving of walnuts contains roughly:
Calories: 182 Fat: 18 grams Protein: 4 grams Carbs: 4 grams Fiber: 2 grams Vitamin E: 1% of the RDI Magnesium: 11% of the RDI
Walnuts appear to improve a number of heart disease risk factors, which may be due to their high content of ALA and other nutrients and are a good source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids.
Cashews are part of the tree nut family and have a good nutrient profile.
One ounce (28 grams) of cashews contains roughly:
Calories: 155 Fat: 12 grams Protein: 5 grams Carbs: 9 grams Fiber: 1 gram Vitamin E: 1% of the RDI Magnesium: 20% of the RDI
A number of studies have examined whether diets high in cashews can improve symptoms of metabolic syndrome.
Cashews do contain many important nutrients and research does indicate that they may help improve blood lipid levels and reduce blood pressure.
Pecans contain quite a few beneficial nutrients as well as antioxidants. The antioxidants may help lower the bad LDL cholesterol.
One ounce (28 grams) of pecans contains roughly:
Calories: 193 Fat: 20 grams Protein: 3 grams Carbs: 4 grams Fiber: 2.5 grams Vitamin E: 2% of the RDI Magnesium: 8% of the RDI
6. Macadamia Nuts
Macadamia nuts contain a wide range of nutrients and are a great source of monounsaturated fat.
One ounce (28 grams) contains roughly:
Calories: 200 Fat: 21 grams Protein: 2 grams Carbs: 4 grams Fiber: 2.5 grams Vitamin E: 1% of the RDI Magnesium: 9% of the RDI
Many of the health benefits of macadamia nuts are related to heart health. This may be due to their high content of monounsaturated fat.
7. Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts originate from a tree in the Amazon and are an incredibly rich source of selenium.
A one-ounce (28-gram) serving of Brazil nuts contains about:
Calories: 182 Fat: 18 grams Protein: 4 grams Carbs: 3 grams Fiber: 2 grams Vitamin E: 8% of the RDI Magnesium: 26% of the RDI
Selenium is a mineral that acts as an antioxidant. Though it’s used for a number of bodily functions, you only need to obtain small amounts of it through your diet. Brazil nuts may help reduce inflammation as well as oxidative stress and cholesterol levels.
Hazelnuts are very nutritious.
One ounce (28 grams) of hazelnuts contains roughly:
Calories: 176 Fat: 9 grams Protein: 6 grams Carbs: 6 grams Fiber: 3.5 grams Vitamin E: 37% of the RDI Magnesium: 20% of the RDI
Like many other nuts, hazelnuts appear to have beneficial effects on heart disease risk factors.
Consuming hazelnuts regularly may help reduce total cholesterol, “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. It also lowered markers of inflammation and improved blood vessel function.
Unlike the other nuts in this article, peanuts are not tree nuts, but belong to the legume family.
However, they have similar nutrient profiles and health benefits as tree nuts.
One ounce (28 grams) of dry-roasted peanuts contains roughly:
Calories: 176 Fat: 17 grams Protein: 4 grams Carbs: 5 grams Fiber: 3 grams Vitamin E: 21% of the RDI Magnesium: 11% of the RDI
Instead of consuming unhealthy saturated fats, consider adding a ¼ cup of healthy nuts to your routine. Just including nuts but not decreasing the amount of saturated fats in your diet will not do your heart any good!!
Be mindful of the way the nuts are prepared, you can’t count them as heart healthy if they are covered in chocolate, salt, sugar or oil! Consider raw, as these are the healthiest options.
Don’t forget nut oils and healthy nut butters, again within reason.