ILong ago our ancestors consumed nuts as a means of survival. Today, nuts still play an integral role in our culture and a staple in our diets. Nuts are served during gatherings, dinner functions, tossed in salads, stir fried with vegetables and as topping for desserts and ice cream. The great news is there is emerging evidence linking eating nuts to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease. Even though more studies are needed to support this claim, unless you are allergic to nuts, there is no real danger in taking nuts as part of your heart-healthy diet.
How can eating nuts help your heart?
Most of the fat in nuts is primarily in monounsaturated form. Monounsaturated fats can help your heart health by lowering the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. LDL plays a major role in the development of plaque that builds up in the blood vessels that may cause stroke, heart attack and peripheral arterial disease.
All nuts contain fiber, which helps lower your cholesterol. Fiber also makes you feel full so you eat less.
Other benefits of nuts are that they are naturally cholesterol free, a good source of protein and Omega-3 acids. Omega-3 acids are a healthy form of fatty acid that help to prevent dangerous heart rhythms that can lead to heart attacks.
What is considered a healthy amount of nuts?
As much as 80 percent of nuts is fat. Although they’re healthy fats, it is still a lot of calories, so it is only sensible to eat it in moderation. Instead of eating foods with unhealthy saturated fats, you can substitute them with a handful of nuts or a tablespoon or two of a nut spread. For example, top a salad with nuts instead of bacon bits and croutons; stir fry vegetable with nuts instead of meat.
The American Heart Association recommends eating about four servings of unsalted nuts a week. A serving is a small handful (1.5 ounces) of whole nuts or 2 tablespoons of nut butter. Select raw or dry-roasted nuts rather than those cooked in oil.
However, it is important to note that by just eating nuts and not cutting back on saturated fats found in many dairy and meat products will not do your heart any good.
Does it matter what kind of nuts you eat for heart health?
Most nuts appear to have heart-healthy nutrients, though some may have more than others. For example, walnuts contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. So, it probably does not matter much the type of nuts that you choose to eat.
Common types of nuts with heart-healthy nutrients are as follows:
*All calorie and fat content measurements are for one ounce or 25.4 gm of unsalted nuts.
^ Peanuts are technically not a nut, but a legume.
Please bear in mind that the heart-healthy benefits of nuts may be cancelled out if they are covered with chocolate, sugar or salt.