Here are the four types of nuts and on how they could affect our heart:
1. Walnuts Help Keep Arteries Clear
Most nuts contain a high concentration of healthy fat. Walnuts are composed of 47 percent polyunsaturated fatty acids, thought of as “good fats.” But while most nuts contain polyunsaturated fatty acids, walnuts are the only ones with a significant amount of a certain type called alpha-linoleic acid. Alpha-linoleic acid acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and has actually been shown to help reduce plaque buildup in coronary arteries.
Eating walnuts has been shown to improve cholesterol levels and the function of the small arteries and vessels within our bodies.
Recently, a study looking people who consumed 43 gm of walnuts every day found the nuts reduced total and LDL cholesterol levels. However this study showed something even more important, in my view.
Consumption of walnuts reduced the level of apolipoprotein B, which is a strong genetic risk factor for coronary artery disease.
If you are at high risk for coronary artery disease (CAD) or already have it, consider adding walnuts to your diet.
2. Almonds Help Lower Cholesterol and Body Fat
Adding almonds to your diet lowers your LDL cholesterol, or bad cholesterol, which is involved in creating plaques in your coronary arteries that can cause heart attacks.
Almonds lower LDL in a dose-dependent manner. This means that by increasing the amount of almonds you eat, you can further lower your LDL. Clinical diet studies show almonds can also reduce your risk of insulin resistance and diabetes. Even if you have diabetes, adding almonds to your diet can improve your sensitivity to insulin.
Almonds can also increase your likelihood of losing weight. In one study, adding 84 gm, or about 3 ounces (oz) of almonds a day to a planned diet improved weight loss and resulted in a 14 percent decrease in waist circumference. A study published in 2015 looked at cholesterol and body fat in people who ate 1.5 oz of almonds a day versus a healthy muffin with similar calories. In only six weeks, people who consumed almonds had lower LDL cholesterol by an average of 5 mg/dL. They also had less belly fat and leg fat.
3. The Truth About Peanuts
Many studies show eating peanuts, including peanut butter, can reduce heart risk. In the Nurse’s Health Study, those women who consumed peanuts and peanut butter lowered their risk of heart disease by 34 percent. The greatest benefit was in those who ate peanuts multiple times a week. In a study of 6,309 women with diabetes, eating one serving of peanuts (28 gm [1 oz] for nuts and 16 gm [1 tablespoon] for peanut butter) five times a week or more lowered risk of heart disease by 44 percent.
Eating peanuts and peanut butter has also been shown to lower risk of diabetes in both lean and overweight women. Finally, like many other nuts, peanuts as an alternative food source for your protein needs can lower your cholesterol, particularly when added to other healthy diet choices.
4. Pistachios Help Lower Blood Pressure Under Stress
Adding pistachios to your diet also has potential heart benefits. Previously, I discussed how our body and heart responds adversely to stress and how we respond to it with increased blood pressure. A study of people who ate approximately 1.5 0z of pistachios a day and were then exposed to mental stress found they had lower blood pressure rises than those who did not eat pistachios. In people with diabetes, eating pistachios lowers total and LDL cholesterol and can reduce the risk of diabetes-related disease in the arteries. In a four-week trial published in 2014 of patients who had diabetes, a diet rich in pistachios (about 6 to 10 gm/day) improved heart rate response to stress, 24-hour blood pressure measurements, and heart function and output. Total cholesterol also decreased for those who ate pistachios.
If you are looking to lower your blood pressure, improve your response to stress, and lower your cholesterol, consider adding pistachios to your diet.