Nuts To You… Just One Way to a Healthy Heart
Dr. John Rumberger
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.
While nuts do contain a high proportion of fat, tree nuts such as almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazel nuts, Brazil nuts, and macadamia are actually low in saturated fat. Most of the fat comes in the form of monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered to be acceptable forms of fat that actually “reduce” the incidence of heart and vascular disease.
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%.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recognizes nuts [including almonds, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, macadamia, and pistachios] may help to lower your blood cholesterol and may be a very healthy “snack”. However, they also warn that they are a source of calories and should not be used to great excess in those with calorie restricted diets and that you should avoid nuts with added oils or added salt. The AHA recommends eating an overall balanced diet that is high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and includes low-fat [or non-fat] diary products, fish and lean meats. If you add nuts to your diet, just be sure that you don’t inadvertently add considerable total calories – despite the benefits of nuts, maintaining an ideal body weight is more important. Weight is often a simple lesson in physics – what comes in either stays [as increased pounds] or is used up for energy and metabolism [which is increased by a regular exercise program].
Disclaimer: If you are under 18, pregnant, nursing or have health problems, consult your physician before starting any weight loss plan. The information here is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your physician before beginning any course of treatment.
About the Author
Dr. John Rumberger’s experince in the field is extensive, and includes achieving his doctorate in 1976 (Bio-Engineering/ Fluid Dynamics/ Applied Mathematics) from Ohio State University Columbus, Ohio, with a dissertation on, A Non-Linear Model of Coronary Artery Blood Flow. He has just completed his book The WAY Diet available on amazon.com or direct through the publisher at http://www.emptycanoe.com