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Almonds Help Cut Cholesterol, Too continued...

This study, funded by the Almond Board of California, appeared in a recent issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Although nuts aren't exactly low in calories or fat, nuts contain high levels of unsaturated fats that are known to lower LDL cholesterol levels in the blood and reduce the risk of heart disease.

In fact, in July 2003, the FDA approved the first qualified health claim for almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, and peanuts for use in advertising and package labels. Packages of nut products that meet the FDA's requirements will now be able to carry the following claim:

"Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease."

A 1.5 oz serving of nuts is about a third of a cup or a small handful.

"Our epidemiological studies have shown eating about one ounce of nuts every day will reduce the risk of heart disease in the long run by 30%," Frank Hu, MD, PhD, associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, tells WebMD in response to this announcement.

Go Nuts -- but Not Too Crazy

"If you want to start using more almonds or nuts, sprinkle them on salad, that's great advice," says Busch, who is also the author of The New Nutrition: From Antioxidants To Zucchini.

"Nuts used to get a bad rap as a concentrated source of fat," she says. In fact, Busch remembers asking clients, "Do you really want to waste those calories?"

But, she says, "we are learning that type of fat is more important than total amount of fat -- as long as you don't overdo it."

A handful or an ounce of almonds a day has a place in a healthful diet; a whole can does not.

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