Medically reviewed by Shahzadi Devje, Registered Dietitian (RD) & Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)
Eating a handful of this simple snack daily could reduce your risk of heart disease by nearly 25%, according to a study by Harvard University.
In one of the largest studies carried out; scientists analyzed 200,000 people for more than three decades to discover that eating a range of nuts helped prevent the world's biggest killer. More specifically, those who ate an ounce (28 g) of nuts, including almonds, walnuts and pistachios, five or more times per week were 20% less likely to get coronary heart disease and 14% less likely to develop cardiovascular disease. Similar results were seen for tree nuts, including macadamias, Brazil nuts and chestnuts - and peanuts individually. Eating peanuts and walnuts was also found to reduce the risk of stroke.
Evidence is strong and consistent, highlighting the beneficial effects of nuts to heart health. Five large epidemiological studies (the Adventist Health Study, the Iowa Women Health Study, the Nurses' Health Study, the Physicians' Health Study, and the CARE Study) have studied the association between eating nuts and risk of coronary heart disease. All have reported similar findings - as nut consumption increases, risk of coronary heart disease decreases.
How do nuts help your ticker?
Nuts contain good-for-you unsaturated fats and omega 3s (commonly found in salmon, mackerel, sardines and other oily fish). These have shown to help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol levels and help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good”) cholesterol levels. LDL plays a substantial role in the development of plaque that collects in blood vessels – causing heart attacks, whereas HDL is a friendly scavenger that cruises through your blood stream and helps to clear LDL cholesterol away from your arteries.
Besides healthy fats, nuts also contain fibre which is thought to not only protect your heart (by lowering cholesterol levels) but may also play a role in preventing diabetes. For one, eating more nuts has been associated with reducing the level of inflammation in your body and this too is linked to heart disease risk.
But that's not all, nuts are a source of vitamin E, which helps to prevent plaque formation. And some types of nuts contain plant sterols; rich sources being: peanuts, almonds, walnuts and pecans. Plant sterols work by preventing your body from absorbing cholesterol, which in turn helps to lower LDL cholesterol levels. Nuts contain L-arginine – a building block for proteins. L-arginine may help your heart by making your arteries less vulnerable to clots – that block blood flow and cause a heart attack.Eating a handful of this simple snack daily could reduce your risk of #heartdisease by nearly 25%, according to a study by Harvard University. Click To Tweet
Nuts are a darling in my pantry - ready to be to enjoyed in all sorts of ways (including art work). They're so simple to integrate into your diet; easy to store and pack, full of goodness and the mix ’n’ match options are endless. But just a word of caution, they're energy dense and pack a hefty caloric punch - especially if you’re munching away mindlessly.
How to shop SMART for nuts
Here’s my top tips for smart shopping for nuts.
- Nuts can go rancid swiftly because of their high fat content. Buy them as fresh as possible - in small amounts, so that you can use them up quickly.
- Opt for raw, un-roasted and unsalted varieties of nuts. The salt will disguise rancidity and the polyunsaturated fat used to roast nuts changes their structure and increases the chance of degradation.
- Shop in busy stores for nuts because it’s likely their stock will be moving faster - offering fresher produce.
- Watch out for nuts with a pungent odour. This could indicate that they’re old and rotten.
- Check the appearance of your nuts. They should appear intact, fresh and hard versus wrinkled, deformed or discoloured.
- Buy nuts in shells to keep them fresher for longer. To check for freshness, shake the shell and if you hear a rattle, it indicates that the nut inside is old and has shrunk.
Store nuts in a cool, dry place in an airtight container and away from direct sun light. Storing some nuts in the fridge or even freezer will also increase their shelf life.
Nuts contain phytic acid which prevents absorption of some minerals in your body. Soaking nuts seems to help and will reduce their phytic acid content - to enhance mineral absorption.
4 ways to enjoy nuts
Toss your favourite nuts on salads to bring texture and crunch. Virtually all nuts work well, however these are particularly delicious options: walnuts, almonds, peanuts, and pistachios. If you struggle to chew nuts, make a dressing instead. Blend walnuts with garlic, cilantro and mix with lemon juice.
Use cashew nuts instead of heavy cream in stews, curries and soups to bring a rich and smooth texture and it’s better for you! You can even experiment with using cashews in desserts - like these Lemon Raspberry Bars.
Dip your apple, pear or banana in your favourite all-natural nut butter. The protein in the nut butter will help to keep you feeling fuller for longer and help control your blood sugars.
What's your favourite way to enjoy nuts? Comment below!
Shahzadi is an award-winning registered dietitian (RD) regulated by the College of Dietitians of Ontario and certified diabetes educator (CDE), approved by the Canadian Diabetes Educator Certification Board. A YouTuber and notorious foodie, she's dedicated to helping you end your cooking wars, transform your health, and be the best version of yourself! Shahzadi is an on-air nutrition expert for CTV Your Morning and a regular contributor for Global News and other national media outlets.