A daily serving of almonds may reduce risk of heart disease

Pamela Egan: Nurse Practitioner, Diabetes Educator and Health Columnist Practical Practitioner

 

By: Pamela Egan, FNP-C CDE

 


 

A daily serving of almonds may reduce risk of heart disease

 

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Nutrition, portion control and physical activity play important roles in achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight and decreasing the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, certain cancers and osteoarthritis. More than 60 percent of Americans are overweight and obese, with major implications for well-being. Recent reports link obesity in young and middle-aged people to shorter lifespans. A handful of nuts every day can lower your heart disease risk by a third, chop your Alzheimer’s risk by two-thirds, and help you slim down.

Almonds are monounsaturated-fats, the heart-healthy fats that help lower your total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, while raising levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. You need protein to help you get lean, pack on muscle, or fight off an afternoon slump at work. The best nuts are like multivitamins. An ounce of almonds provides half the vitamin E you need daily, 8 percent of the calcium and 19 percent of the magnesium. These nutrients lower your risk of heart attack and improve your bone strength.

The Food & Drug Administration approved that health claim saying that eating one and a half ounces of most nuts, including almonds, may reduce the risk of heart disease when they’re part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

The claim is the result of rigorous review of a large body of scientific research citing the heart health benefits of nuts.

The claim is a result of a petition filed by the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation.

Studies supporting the heart health benefits of almonds were among the strongest submitted in the claim. One and a half ounces equals about one-third cup, or about 34 almonds. More is not better, since too much of a good thing will lead to weight gain.

There have been two well-designed, dose response studies published showing almonds’ role in lowering bad cholesterol levels.

The American Heart Association promotes the substitution of foods high in saturated fats (ie. twinkies, cookies, french fries) with those containing healthful, unsaturated fats such as the monounsaturated fats found in almonds.

Almonds consistently rank as Americans’ favorite tree nut. Why? They’re packed with nutrition, and it’s hard to think of a nut that’s more tasty or versatile. Almonds go with just about everything.

You can enjoy a handful as a snack, or sprinkle them on fruit, cereal, yogurt, salads and cooked vegetables. Or add almonds to rice and other grain dishes to add crunchy texture great taste and a nutritional boost.

A one-and-a-half-ounce handful of almonds, for example, is a leading source of vitamin E and magnesium and offers protein, fiber, potassium, calcium, phosphorus and iron in 246 calories.

Moreover, almonds and other nuts contain phytochemicals-plant components that may provide powerful protection against heart disease, stroke and other chronic diseases.

The following nuts are included in the claim: almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts and peanuts.

When eating more nuts, weight-conscious consumers should consider substituting them for something they normally eat. Fortunately, a small serving of nuts is very satisfying because of the healthy monounsaturated fats, protein and fiber nuts contain. For example, at snack time when you are looking for a crunchy treat, choose a handful of almonds over a larger serving of pretzels. Almonds are a smart snack- and just a handful is nutritious, satisfying and convenient to carry.

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