If You are Nuts About Health, Try the Top 6 Healthiest Nuts
Many people were scared away from nuts during the low-fat
craze of the last few decades, but now nuts are making a comeback.
Nuts are excellent sources of protein, minerals, "good"
monounsaturated fats and other nutrients, and they're
good for the heart.
A study conducted by Loma Linda University in California
that involved 31,000 Seventh Day Adventists found that eating
nuts lowered the risk of heart disease and helped participants
to keep their weight down. Other large-scale studies, including
the Physician's Health Study, the Iowa Women's Heath Study
and the Harvard Nurses Health Study, also found that eating
nuts lowered heart disease risk. Other studies have shown
that nuts help lower bad "LDL" cholesterol.
In fact, in July 2003, the FDA approved the following health
claim for nut package labels:
"Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that
eating 1.5 ounces per day of some nuts, as part of a diet
low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk
of heart disease."
It only takes a small handful of nuts to satisfy hunger (and
help you stay full longer), and there are many varieties to
choose from. Here are six of the healthiest.
When it comes to nuts, the walnut is the king. It's
a great source of the healthy omega-3 essential fatty
acids, which have been found to protect the heart, promote
better cognitive function, and provide anti-inflammatory
benefits for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema and
Walnuts also contain the antioxidant compound ellagic
acid, which is known to fight cancer and support
the immune system. But that's not all--in a study
in the August 2003 issue of Phytochemistry, researchers
identified 16 polyphenols in walnuts, including three
new tannins, with antioxidant activity so powerful they
described it as "remarkable."
Walnuts are incredibly healthy for the heart. A study
in the April 2004 issue of Circulation found that when
walnuts were substituted for about one-third of the
calories supplied by olives and other monounsaturated
fats in the Mediterranean diet:
Total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol were
The elasticity of the arteries increased by 64
Levels of vascular cell adhesion molecules, which
play a major role in the development of atherosclerosis
(hardening of the arteries), were reduced
Just a quarter cup of almonds contains nearly 25 percent
of your needed daily value of the important nutrient
magnesium, plus is rich in potassium, manganese, copper,
the antioxidants vitamin E and selenium, and calcium.
In fact, a quarter cup of almonds has almost as much
calcium as a quarter cup of milk.
They're also great for the colon. An animal study
on the effects of almonds on colon cancer found that
animals (which were exposed to a colon-cancer-causing
agent) given whole almonds had fewer signs of colon
cancer than animals given almond oil or no almonds.
Researchers suspect the benefit may be due to almonds'
high fiber content.
Plus, almonds are one of the best nuts for lowering
cholesterol because 70 percent of the fat they contain
is the healthy monounsaturated variety, which has been
shown to help clear arteries.
Cashews are lower in fat than most nuts, and 65 percent
of this fat is unsaturated fatty acids. Of this, 90
percent is oleic acid, the heart-healthy fat found in
Plus, cashews are rich in copper, magnesium, zinc,
iron and biotin.
Pecans are an excellent source of over 19 vitamins
and minerals including vitamins E and A, folic acid,
calcium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, potassium, manganese,
several B vitamins and zinc.
Plus, according to Sue Taylor, R.D., director of nutrition
communication for the National Pecan Shellers Association,
"Recent clinical research studies evaluating the
impact of pecans on serum cholesterol have found pecans
can significantly help lower blood cholesterol when
consumed as part of a heart-healthy diet."
In fact, a study from New Mexico State University found
that eating 3/4 cup of pecans a day may significantly
lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and help to clear the arteries.
These nuts are extremely nutrient-rich and contain
protein, copper, niacin, magnesium, fiber, vitamin E
and selenium. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that
works to neutralize dangerous free radicals. A study
at the University of Illinois even found that the high
amounts of selenium in Brazil nuts may help prevent
These nuts are high in protein, fiber, healthy monounsaturated
fats, potassium and magnesium. And, a study done at Hawaii
University found that people who had added macadamia nuts
to their diets for just one month had total cholesterol levels
of 191, compared to 201 for those eating the typical American
diet. The largest change was found in the LDL (bad) cholesterol.
A Little Goes a Long Way
The key with nuts is simply not to overeat them. They are
highly concentrated in both their calories and their nutrients,
so you only need a small handful at a time. Eating a variety
of nuts appears to be the best way to get all the different
benefits each nut has to offer.
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