Researcher suggests that eating nuts regularly can significantly reduce the incidence of heart disease. In a review by the Penn State University, researchers concluded that eating one ounce of nuts more than five times per week can reduce the risk of coronary artery disease by as much as 25 - 39%.
Researchers from Harvard Medical School, and the Harvard School of Public Health, also examined the effect of eating nuts on cardiovascular health. They found that nuts were particularly healthy for men who were at risk of heart disease. They reported that healthy men and those who have already suffered a heart attack could reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease by eating nuts regularly.
So, why are nuts so beneficial in protecting our heart?
- Nuts contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats known to be beneficial to the heart.
- Many nuts are rich in omega-3 fats, which may protect against irregular heart rhythms, therefore protecting from heart attack.
- Nuts are a rich source of arginine, a substance that may improve blood vessel function.
- The other nutrients found in nuts, such as fiber and vitamin E, may also help to lower cardiovascular risk.
Current dietary guidelines suggest eating 1 - 2 ounces (a small handful) each day. However, this should be as part of an overall heart-healthy diet. If your diet is unhealthy at present merely adding nuts on top will not benefit your health.
One handful contains around 150 calories therefore it's ideal that you substitute foods such as chips, cake, cookies, or ice cream for nuts as a much healthier alternative. Try to avoid varieties which have been fried in oil, or covered in salt, chocolate, or sugar.
Healthy choices include:
- Brazil nuts
- Peanuts (technically a legume, however thought to have similar benefits to tree nuts)
A small portion of nuts can make an excellent snack between meals, but you could also include them in your favorite recipes to add extra flavor, crunch and texture. Try topping salads, pasta, stir-fry's, or fish dishes with a variety of different nuts to suit your taste. Or, you could sprinkle a small handful on top of your breakfast cereal, or choose cereals which already contain nuts, such as muesli.
By themselves, nuts are not the only key to better cardiovascular health. However, by including them as part of an overall heart healthy diet you will be benefiting your health and well being, and stepping a little closer to a healthier heart as a result.
Melanie Thomassian is a dietician, and author of Dietriffic.com, an online resource for credible dietary advice, exercise tips, and much more!