5 Ways To Eat More Heart-Healthy Nuts

Posted Thu, 09/23/2010 - 10:36am by Camilla Cheung

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Although they still have a bad reputation as being fatty junk foods, nuts are surprisingly good for you. They are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber, and numerous studies have shown that eating nuts daily can help to lower your levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol. They also contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to lower cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health.

A recent study from the Loma Linda University in California demonstrated that eating about a handful of nuts every day helped to significantly lower the levels of LDL cholesterol in the participants. The FDA has also stated that eating an ounce of nuts daily can help lower your risk of heart disease.

The fiber that nuts contain slow down the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Their high levels of unsaturated fats also help to lower "bad" cholesterol. The omega-3 fatty acids in nuts also lower triglyceride levels in addition to protecting the health of our arteries. Nuts are also high in protein and many vitamins, making them a healthy alternative to cholesterol-raising animal meats and fats.

5 Ways to Eat More Nuts

Nuts are a delicious component of a healthy diet, and are easy to incorporate into your daily meals.

1. Toss nuts in a salad

Instead of adding cheese to a salad, toss in a handful or two of chopped walnuts or almonds. Walnuts have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and several studies have linked walnuts to lower cholesterol levels. Almonds are high in protein, fiber and vitamins, especially the antioxidant vitamin E, which helps prevent arterial clogging.

2. Garnish a pasta with nuts

Toast some pine nuts or walnuts in a hot skillet and toss them with a bowl of whole-wheat pasta and vegetables. The nuts will provide the protein, while the whole-wheat pasta contains more fiber than regular pasta.

3. Eat nuts for breakfast

Sprinkle some sliced almonds over a bowl of oatmeal (not the sugary instant kind). Oatmeal has been shown to have cholesterol-lowering tendencies, similar to nuts. Alternatively, sprinkle some low-sugar granola and nuts over a bowl of yogurt and fruit in the morning.

4. Nuts for snacks

Instead of a cookie or other fat-filled snack, have a handful of healthy and filling nuts. Just make sure to avoid nuts that have been roasted with lots of sugar, salt, and fat. Look for raw or roasted nuts without added ingredients. Mix some peanuts and almonds with dried fruit in a trail mix for a high-energy and convenient snack.

5. Use nuts in baking

Make your own granola or banana bread with plenty of nuts and heart-healthy olive oil. You'll skip the trans fats and cholesterol added to processed baked goods, and enjoy a delicious snack or dessert as a result.

Watch Out for Calories

Nuts are high in calories and fat, although the fat is "good fat" that helps reduce bad cholesterol. Nevertheless, eating too many nuts can lead to weight gain if you're not careful, and may cancel out the cardiovascular benefits they provide. Use nuts as a healthy replacement for animal fats and meats. That way, you gain the same amount of calories, but with greater health benefits. You may want to avoid high-fat nuts such as Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, and cashews, or enjoy them in moderation.

Remember that nuts are not a miracle food, but should be enjoyed in conjunction with a balanced diet that includes vegetables, whole grains, fish, and legumes. As always, beware of nut allergies when using them in dishes that many people will share.

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