Once maligned for their high fat content, nuts are now venerated as crunchy, heart-healthy dynamos. Mounting research shows that nuts, especially tree nuts such as almonds, pistachios, walnuts and hazelnuts, are not only part of a healthy diet, but can provide protection against heart disease and strokes, among other diseases. In general, nuts are high in beneficial fats, fiber and protein. In light of the American Heart Association’s American Heart Month (and the fact that heart attacks and strokes are still the leading cause of death in the U.S.) it’s a good time to explore just how healthy nuts are for you.
Is fat bad for you?
While fat once had a bad rap, research indicates that people who consume good “unsaturated fats” which include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, have a lower disease risk. While nuts in general, are high in fat, they contain some saturated fat (which are best eaten sparingly), but mostly higher levels of monounsaturated fat, as well as omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fat. They are also packed with vitamins such as vitamin E and minerals such as magnesium. Studies show vitamin E could help support one’s immunity and prevent heart inflammation, which can narrow the arteries and increase the risk for a heart attack. The fat in nuts could also help prevent obesity, a factor in heart disease. Middle aged women who snacked on nuts at least twice a week, according to one Harvard School of Public Health study, had a 27 percent reduced chance to become obese during the 8-week study.
How to keep your Heart Healthy
The health benefits of nuts keep piling up. A Harvard Medical School Study analyzed data on 119,000 men and women covering 30 years and found that those who ate a serving of nuts daily had a 29 percent reduced risk of dying from heart disease. Nuts are also rich in plant sterols, fiber and copper. These are all linked in studies in reduced cholesterol and blood pressure levels. A recent American Heart Association study found people with type 2 diabetes who ate five servings of nuts per week saw a 17 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease. For each additional weekly serving of nuts people ate, they cut their risk of cardiovascular disease 3 percent lower and cardiovascular disease death by 6 percent.
Nuts are Excellent Sources of Plant-Based Protein
If you’re striving for a plant-based diet, nuts and seeds are an excellent way to get the protein you need. Just remember: a little goes a long way: Nuts have about 9 calories per gram. A handful of nuts can run anywhere from 160 to 190 calories (with 3 to 7 grams of protein). The healthiest nuts are consumed raw, unsalted.
A Handful of Heart-Healthy Nuts:
Almonds: contain 170 calories per 1 oz. (28 gram) serving, 16 grams of fat and 6 grams of protein. Studies indicate that eating a diet rich in almonds could help cut one’s LDL cholesterol levels, which can be bad for your health.
Walnuts contain 180 calories per 1 oz. (28 gram) serving, 18 grams of fat and 4 grams of protein. Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s can be a catalyst for reducing bad, Triglyceride cholesterol levels and raising HDL levels. Studies also link it to preventing blood clots, plaque and inflammation.
Pistachios: contain 156 calories per 1 oz. (28 gram) serving and 12.5 grams of fat and 6 grams of protein. Studies show that eating pistachios may also help with one’s cholesterol by boosting (good) HDL cholesterol levels. These nuts could also help control other aspects of heart disease, including blood pressure and weight.
Hazelnuts: contain 180 calories per 1 oz. (28 gram) serving and 18 grams of fat and 4 grams of protein. In addition to being full of antioxidants, hazelnuts are a great way to get vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin E, manganese and copper. They are also rich sources of omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids. In a one-month study, people with high cholesterol who made hazelnuts about 20 percent of their daily calories, enjoyed reduced cholesterol, triglycerides and bad LDL cholesterol levels. Many in the study also saw improved artery health.
While all nuts provide different varying levels of nutrients, it’s clear that all tree nuts including pecans, macadamia nuts, and even cashews and Brazil nuts, can be part of a heart-healthy diet. So next time you reach for a snack, are looking for a salad topper or ingredient to add to your favorite dish, think Nature’s Garden’s nuts, fresh and natural nuts to fit your lifestyle or wellness goals.