Nuts To You... Just One Way to a Healthy Heart
Nuts are readily available and provide a highly nutritious food. In addition to protein, carbohydrate, and fat, nuts contain many other important nutrients: fiber, vitamin E, folic acid, potassium, and magnesium. Although on some food charts you may see nuts listed in the same food category as diary products, eggs, and red meat because of the fat content, new information calls into question this designation.
Several large studies have examined the relationship between the risk of heart disease and intake of omega-3 fatty acids from plant sources. In the Seventh Day Adventist Health Study researchers found that those who reported eating nuts more than four times per week had a 50% lower risk of heart disease than those who rarely ate nuts. The Nurses' Health Study found that heart disease risk was reduced by 35% in those who ate nuts compared with those who rarely ate nuts. An addition study found that the risk of type 2 diabetes went down by nearly 1/3 in women who consumed 1/4 cup of nuts five times per week compared to those that did not eat nuts at all.
One recent study looked at almonds in particular. They examined the effects on LDL ["bad"] cholesterol values. Each person served as his own control and they were each on three different "diets": almonds representing about 1/4 their entire daily calorie intake, OR a "handful" of almonds per day, OR a muffin [containing about the same number of calories as a "full dose" of almonds]. The LDL cholesterol went down about 10% when the subjects took a "full dose" of almonds, went down about 5% with intake of a "handful" of almonds, and did not go down at all with eating a muffin. In those with the higher "dose" of almonds, the "ratio" of bad to good cholesterol [LDL/HDL ratio] went down by 12%.