Nuts for Heart Protection
Eating a useful of a variety of nuts 5 times a week can greatly reduce your risk of getting a heart attack. This has been consistently established in several large scientific studies over the last few years. In the Adventist Health Study, a 50% reduced risk of coronary heart disease was noted in subjects who consumed nuts 5 times per week when compared to those who never consumed nuts. In the Iowa Women's Health Study, the relative risk of death from a coronary event in women who consumed nuts 2-4 times per week was only 43% when compared with those who almost never consumed nuts. Similarly the Harvard Nurses' Health Study showed that women who consumed more than five ounces of nuts a week lowered their risk of heart disease by 35%, compared with women who rarely ate nuts. Another study done at Harvard's School of Public Health found that eating nuts at least twice a week reduced the risk of having a second heart attack by 25% among 4,000 people.
Nuts are beneficial in many ways. The major mechanism appears to be through their beneficial effects on blood lipids because of their high levels of mono and poly unsaturated fats. Substituting saturated fats with unsaturated fats helps lower the bad cholesterol LDL and triglycerides. Many nuts are also rich in arginine. Arginine is a precursor of nitric oxide, which helps the blood vessels in the body relax. Nitric oxide can also prevent the platelets from sticking together to form the harmful blood clots within the arteries of the heart and the brain – resulting in a heart attack or a stroke. Walnuts are particularly high in α linolenic acid (about 10% of weight) which is a precursor of omega-3 fatty acid, and is thought to protect against heart disease by preventing blood clots and life threatening irregular heart beats. Finally, nuts are also rich in magnesium, copper, selenium, folic acid, vegetable protein, potassium, fiber, phytochemicals and antioxidants like vitamin E – all known for their heart protective benefits.
In 2003 FDA approved some labels to print this message, "Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces of most nuts, such as peanuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. See nutrition information for fat content. " The beneficial nuts are almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pignola pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts. Some nuts contain higher amounts of saturated fats and may not be heart protective. These include brazil nuts, macadamias, cashews, and pinyon pine nuts because they contain 3 to 5 grams of saturated fat per ounce. Coconut and palm nuts should also be consumed in a limited fashion, again because of their high content of saturated fats.
Remember nuts are high in calories – so restrain from overeating them. To avoid obesity, substitute nuts for something else. Also beware of an acute allergic reaction to peanuts – and to a lesser extinction brazil nuts, almonds and hazelnuts. This can be life threatening, especially in young children ..
So have a helpful (10 to 15) of nuts daily, especially walnuts and almonds and help your heart stay healthy.