If you’re trying to follow a heart-healthy diet, some of the best things you can add to it are nuts. Almost all nuts are packed with nutrients for a healthy heart, like vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and unsaturated fats. Heart-healthy nuts may help lower your cholesterol, get rid of inflammation, improve blood vessel health and lower your risk of heart disease.
Best of all, there are so many great ways to eat them. You can use nuts as snacks, add them to salads, eat them in nut butter form, mix them into yogurt or add them to your diet any way you see fit. But the most important thing is that you eat them. Here’s why.
How nuts help your heart
Research on how nuts affect your health shows that eating them frequently can positively affect your heart. In addition to inflammation associated with heart disease and diabetes, other health benefits of nuts include:
- Decreased risk of blood clots
- Lower risk of high blood pressure
- Reduced cholesterol levels, specifically your low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides
- Improved artery health
One drawback is that nuts tend to be high in calories, which can contribute to weight gain, so it’s important to limit your portions. Adults can eat four to six servings of unsalted nuts in a week. A healthy portion size is about 1.5 ounces of whole nuts or two tablespoons of nut butter.
Heart-healthy nuts to eat
Heart-healthy nuts are a good source of protein and contain substances that are good for your heart, such as unsaturated fats, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, plant sterols and L-arginine. Some nuts are higher in some heart-healthy substances than others, but are all generally healthy. However, some of those benefits decrease when you add salt or sugar to them, so it’s best to choose unsalted, raw or dry-roasted.
Almonds are probably the nuts that are easiest to find in your grocery store. Plus, you can do so much with them. They’re also a great weight loss tool because they’re filling and lower in calories than other types of nuts. Studies have shown that they can help reduce blood sugar, lower cholesterol and reduce swelling in your body.
Pecans are another great nut that are easy to find your local grocery store and that have heart-healthy benefits. They contain healthy fats that may lower bad cholesterol and raise the good kind. They may also help reduce your risk of colon and breast cancers. The antioxidants in pecans have even been known to help slow the aging process and reduce inflammation in the body.
Macadamia nuts are a good source of healthy fats. Like pecans, they can have a positive impact on your cholesterol levels. Studies have shown they can also reduce inflammation and reduce oxidative stress, which is the amount of harmful chemicals in your blood. This stress can have a negative impact on your heart health. If you’re eating a low-carb diet, macadamia nuts only have about 4 grams of carbs per serving.
Some people consider walnuts the ultimate nut for heart health. That may have something to do with the quality of the antioxidants they contain. An ounce of walnuts may even have more antioxidants than your daily intake of fruits and vegetables. Like other nuts, they can help lower cholesterol and the amount of inflammation in your body. They may even help lower your blood pressure.
Like almonds, pistachios are lower in calories than many other types of nuts. This makes them a healthy snack for anyone trying to lose weight. Studies have shown that eating about two to three ounces of them a day can help raise good cholesterol levels. These little green nuts may also lower your blood pressure.
Technically, peanuts aren’t actually nuts. They’re legumes, like beans and peas, but you’ll find them in the nut aisle at your local grocery store. They’re a great heart-healthy snack, whole or in the form of peanut butter. Not only do they reduce the risk for heart disease, but studies have shown that they may help prevent type 2 diabetes for women.
Last but not least, cashews are great nuts to add to your heart-healthy diet. Like the others, they can help lower your cholesterol levels. They’re also a good source of copper, which can help reduce your risk of developing some diseases. Cashews are filled with antioxidants, and they may help lower your blood pressure.
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