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Friday, January 13, 2012

The Benefits of Eating Nuts for Your Heart

As I sit here munching and crunching, I decided to rationalize  my go to snack of dry roasted whole almonds with sea salt .

In a nutshell, were there any compensating benefits to eating so many calories so quickly? (one serving of 1/4 cup is 180 calories with 140 calories coming from fat) Of course, the lack of greasy, sticky residue on my hands as well as the natural bite size servings were in the plus column for me.

But I was looking for something more substantial. The high fiber content (4g or 16%DV) in almonds and other nuts was just that.  In the long run, you may feel full enough from the fiber in nuts to reduce you caloric intake of them. The fiber binds to bile acids which decreases fat absorption and lowers cholesterol.

A 2005 Harvard Medical School study shows that  "healthy men, and those who have already suffered a heart attack, can reduce cardiovascular risk by eating nuts regularly".  The Harvard study concluded that the benefits of nuts of alone were modest compared to the benefits achieved when nuts were combined with a healthy eating regime.  "Nuts may not be the key to cardiovascular health, but adding nuts to a balanced, healthful diet can take you one step away from heart disease," stated Dr. Simon from Harvard.

And an earlier (1998) Nurses Study that dealt with women showed: "
 the intake of five or more servings (five ounces) of nuts per week (lead) to a 35 – 50 percent reduction in risk of coronary heart disease incidence and death."

Some specific benefits that come from making nuts a part of your heart healthy diet are:
  1. Help lower cholesterol by replacing less healthy snacks
  2. Contain beneficial mono and poly unsaturated fats
  3. Best plant based source of omega- 3's which protect against irregular heart rhythms
  4. Rich in arginine which promote healthy blood vessels
  5. Contain fiber and vitamin E which prevents plaque build up in the arteries
  6. Contain plant sterols which help lower cholesterol
The below chart from the Mayo Clinic provides nutrition information on one ounce of common unsalted nuts.
Type of nutCaloriesTotal fat
(saturated/unsaturated fat)*
Almonds, raw16314 g (1.1 g/12.2 g)
Almonds, dry roasted16915 g (1.1 g/12.9 g)
Brazil nuts, raw18619 g (4.3 g/12.8 g)
Cashews, dry roasted16313.1 g (2.6 g/10 g)
Chestnuts, roasted690.6 g (0.1 g/0.5 g)
Hazelnuts (filberts), raw17817 g (1.3 g/15.2 g)
Hazelnuts (filberts), dry roasted18317.7 g (1.3 g/15.6 g)
Macadamia nuts, raw20421.5 g (3.4 g/17.1 g)
Macadamia nuts, dry roasted20421.6 g (3.4 g/17.2 g)
Peanuts, dry roasted16614 g (2g/11.4 g)
Pecans, dry roasted20121 g (1.8 g/18.3 g)
Pistachios, dry roasted16112.7 g (1.6 g/10.5 g)
Walnuts, halved18518.5 g (1.7 g/15.9 g)

    When selecting your favorite nut to snack on, don't choose the ones covered in chocolate or salt!   Nuts should be used to replace junk food, and not to add unwanted calories to your diet.

    1 comment :

    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen said...

    Oh darn, I can't say chocolate covered macadamia nuts then. ;-) No really, I love them all but cashews and macadamias are at the top of my list currently.

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