Nuts get a bad rap. A lot of people still see them as salty, fatty, and high
calorie -- a junk food deserving exile to the carts of vendors or the snack
bowls of dingy, smoky bars.
But nutritionists say that certain nuts deserve an honored spot in the
kitchen of every healthy eater (as long as you're not allergic, of course.)
Nuts have lots of protein, fiber, healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamins,
nutrients, and antioxidants. And many studies have shown that nuts have
powerful cholesterol-lowering effects.
A fasting lipid profile is a blood test that measures the amount of cholesterol and fats called triglycerides in the blood. These measurements give the doctor a quick snapshot of what's going on in your arteries. Cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood can clog arteries, making you more likely to develop heart disease. Thus, these tests can help predict your risk of heart disease and allow you to make early lifestyle changes that lower cholesterol and triglycerides.
The benefits were clear enough for the FDA in 2003 to issue a "qualified
health claim" for peanuts and certain tree nuts -- almonds, hazelnuts,
pecans, some pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts. The claim allows some nuts and foods
made with them to carry this claim: "Eating a diet that includes one ounce
of nuts daily can reduce your risk of heart disease."
So it's time to dust off your nutcrackers or pull the lid off a can of nuts.
Taken in moderation, these nuts are good for you.
"Walnuts are great because they have high levels of omega-3 fatty
acids," says American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Suzanne Farrell, MS,
RD. "Other nuts don't."
Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in fatty fish like tuna and salmon. We
know that omega-3 fatty acids lower levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in
the bloodstream. Experts are not exactly sure how. Omega-3 fatty acids may also
slow down the growth of plaques inthe
arteries and prevent blood clots.
There are a number of small studies that show that walnuts help lower
One 2004 study of 58 adults with diabetes looked at the effects of eating a
handful of walnuts each day in addition to a healthy diet. The researchers
found that on average, people who ate the walnuts had an increase in their good
HDL cholesterol and a drop of 10% in their bad LDL cholesterol levels. The
results were published in the journal Diabetes Care.
Walnuts received their own, separate qualified health claim from the FDA in
2004, stating that they may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Many studies show that almonds have real health benefits too. Like other
nuts, they are high in protein, fiber, healthy monounsaturated fats, minerals,
and other nutrients. They are also high in vitamin E, an antioxidant.
One researcher, David Jenkins MD, has done many studies of the effects of
almonds. In a study, he tested
27 men and women with high cholesterol over three months. People who ate about
a handful of almonds a day lowered their bad LDL cholesterol by 4.4%. Those who
ate two handfuls lowered it by 9.4%. The results were published in the journal