Nuts And Cholesterol Control – Is There A Link?

In a previous article we discussed the question – are almonds good for you?  It turns out that almonds may very well help control cholesterol as several studies show a link between the consumption of almonds and a drop in LDL cholesterol levels (bad cholesterol).  The question now is in regards to other nuts and cholesterol control.  Are other nuts besides almonds good at reducing bad cholesterol?  What are the best nuts to choose for a snack?  How do I incorporate nuts into my diet?

Nuts And Cholesterol Control - Is There A Link?

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While there have been studies that have focused on specific nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, and peanuts, there have been recent studies that took a closer look at what happens when people add any nuts to their diet.  These studies are finding good news related to the consumption of nuts.  One recent study saw a drop of 5.1% in total cholesterol and 7.4% in LDL cholesterol levels (AMA).  One of the authors of the study, Dr. Joan Sabaté, indicates that this drop in cholesterol levels can lead to a reduced risk of heart disease:

“Nuts are a whole food that have been consumed by humans throughout history. Increasing the consumption of nuts as part of an otherwise prudent diet can be expected to favorably affect blood lipid levels (at least in the short term) and have the potential to lower coronary heart disease risk.”

Why do nuts help reduce bad cholesterol?

It is important to consider what nuts consist of – mainly proteins, unsaturated fatty acids, dietary fiber, and plant sterols.  All of these components are known to help with the reduction of LDL cholesterol.

What are the best nuts to help lower cholesterol?

The preferred nut (though it technically is a seed and not a nut) is the almond.  Dry-roasted almonds with the skins still on are extremely healthy and make the biggest impact on cholesterol levels.  Is almond butter good for you?  Yes, even almond butter can help control cholesterol levels.

After almonds, you will see the best results by choosing walnuts.  The results are a very close second to almonds.

Besides almonds and walnuts, any other type of nuts will provide some heart-healthy benefits.  These include hazelnuts, pecans, peanuts, and pistachios.

There are a couple of nuts that you may want to steer away from.  These include macadamia nuts and brazil nuts.  While these have high levels of unsaturated fats they also have higher levels of saturated fatty acids.

The added fat is okay, as long as you use moderation

While it is now known that nuts are good for your heart health, and even though fat contained within nuts is a ‘good’ fat, they pack a lot of calories in a small package.  A handful of nuts can contain as much as 150-200 calories.  Therefore, while it is important to incorporate some nuts into your diet to control cholesterol, there must be some restraint.  Don’t just sit around with a large container of peanuts or almonds as you will be tempted to consume more than you should.  Instead, take just a handful at a time – just 15-20 almonds is enough to make a difference, with 30 being the daily maximum.  Also, opt for unsalted and dry-roasted nuts.  Consuming salt covered or sugar coated nuts will only counteract the good that you will be doing.

The best way to add nuts to your diet without adding calories is to replace them with something else that you currently have in your diet.  Snacking on potato chips?  Replace that bag of chips with a jar of almonds.  Enjoy a candy bar after lunch?  Replace the candy bar with a small bag of mixed nuts.  Making small changes like this can significantly improve the health of your heart.

The consumption of nuts and cholesterol control appear to be closely linked.  As long as you add nuts to your diet while using moderation you may be able to see a reduction of your bad cholesterol levels while reducing your risk of heart disease.