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The New Low-Cholesterol Diet: Nuts

Nuts aren't just for holidays anymore. Key nuts can help you lower cholesterol. Add nuts to your low-cholesterol diet.
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Getting Nuts Into Your Diet

Nuts are easy to work into your meal plan. Some nuts traditionally come still in the shell. But you can buy most of them pre-shelled at a grocery store. They don't need any preparation. Just eat a handful as a snack or add them to a trail mix. You don't need very many anyway.

You can also use nuts as a condiment. Sprinkle them on your salad, cereal, yogurt, fruit, vegetables, or entrees, suggest Keecha Harris, DrPh, RD and Ruth Frechman, RD, both spokeswomen for the ADA. Use nuts in pasta salads or in hot soups.

However, don't get seduced by anything less than a pure nut. "When you're choosing nuts, make sure to get them raw and unsalted," Farrell tells WebMD. Honey-roasted, chocolate covered, and other candied nuts give you extra calories that you don't need.

How Much Do You Need?

You can get the health benefits of nuts from just a handful a day. About 1 to 1.5 ounces is plenty, experts say. The high protein and fiber in nuts make them very filling. Make sure you don't overdo it.

"Although nuts have a lot of benefits, they're also high in calories that can add up fast," says Farrell. Gaining weight is likely to undo any of the heart-healthy effects of these foods.

The best way to add nuts to your diet is to use them to replace less healthy fats -- like saturated fats in meats. That way you're gaining the benefits of nuts without adding more calories.

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Reviewed on February 02, 2009
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Cholesterol Glossary

  • Dietary fiber - The parts of plants that your body can't digest. If eaten regularly, fiber such as oats, pectin, and psyllium reduces serum and LDL cholesterol.
  • HDL Cholesterol - The "good" cholesterol, HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol helps your body remove "bad" cholesterol from your arteries.
  • LDL Cholesterol - The "bad" cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol tends to be deposited in artery walls.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids - A good-for-you polyunsaturated fat found in some fish and vegetables (salmon, flax seed, soybean, English walnuts, and canola oil).
  • Plant sterols - Found in plant foods, isolated from soybean and tall pine tree oils, they lower LDL "bad" cholesterol levels.

Which foods do you favor?