Nuts Are the Secret to a Healthy Heart
If you’re looking for foods to keep your heart healthy and stay that way, add nuts to your smart-snacking list.
According to a new study from Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, eating nuts can help prevent heart attack and stroke, and lower the odds of dying from cardiovascular disease.
What’s more, it seems that some types of nuts deliver stronger heart benefits than others.
For the study, researchers followed 289,000 healthy men and women for up to 32 years. They analyzed participants’ diets every 2 years and reviewed medical records for a diagnosis of heart attack or stroke and identified cardiovascular deaths.
Compared with people who never or almost never ate nuts (any type of nut including peanuts),participants who ate one serving (28grams or one ounce) at least 5 times a week were 20 per cent less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, either fatal or non-fatal. (Peanuts are classified as legumes, not tree nuts.)
After analyzing specific types of nuts, it was found that eating 28g of peanuts or tree nuts at least twice a week reduced the risk of heart attack or stroke by 15 per cent and 23 per cent respectively. (Tree nuts include almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts.)
Walnuts, though, delivered a stronger protective punch. Participants who ate a 28g serving just once a week had a 21 per cent lower risk of coronary heart disease. When stroke risk was considered separately, only walnuts and peanuts were found to offer significant protection.
This research was observational (e.g. It followed the habits of participants over years and associated them with health outcomes). So it is not conclusive evidence that eating nuts prevented heart attacks or strokes because people who consume good foods may also exercise more regularly, take healthy supplements and eat more fruits and vegetables.
However, a recent randomized trial—the gold standard for establishing cause and effect—revealed that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with 30g of nuts lowered the risk of heart attack, stroke or death from cardiovascular disease by 30 per cent.
How nuts protect your heart
Nuts are high in heart-healthy unsaturated fats, plant protein, fibre and many nutrients (e.g. B vitamins, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium) and phytochemicals believed to benefit the heart.
A regular intake of nuts has been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and blood pressure, reduce inflammation, enhance blood vessel function and improve the body’s use of insulin.
Nuts also contain flavonoids, phytochemicals that are metabolized by gut bacteria and, in so doing, may contribute cardiovascular benefits.
What about the calories?
Nuts are high in calories, mostly from fat. Yet there’s no scientific evidence that eating nuts on a regular basis causes weight gain.
Rather, studies suggest that nut eaters experience less weight gain and have a lower risk of obesity than people who don’t eat them, likely because eating them increases fullness and keeps you from getting hungry for long periods of time.
Even so, I don’t recommend you eat more than a small handful or two each day.
Peanuts in the shell are ideal because you must open each one and thus you cannot take a handful but one cup of peanuts, for instance delivers 857 calories, almost half a day’s calories for some people.
Try to limit your serving of raw or dry roasted nuts to 28g ( one ounce) and you not only will not get fat but you will most likely have a very healthy heart.