A storehouse of healthy fats and vitamins, nuts pack a powerful nutritional punch, effectively lowering bad cholesterol levels and promoting heart health. Oh almonds, walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts to pistachios, eating a handful each day can offer great benefits from weight loss to blood sugar control. Many studies have confirmed their cholesterol-lowering properties and their ability to provide the body with essential nutrients such as protein, omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoids, antioxidants and numerous vitamins and minerals. It is a myth that eating nuts can increase one’s cholesterol levels but it is far from true. (Also read: 7 reasons why you need to start your day with soaked nuts)
Not all cholesterol is bad and the healthy one helps to remove the harmful cholesterol from our arteries and prevent heart attacks and strokes. It is therefore important to include foods rich in good cholesterol for optimal heart health.
How many nuts should you eat per day
“Nuts are beneficial for lowering bad cholesterol only when consumed in the best portions (no more than a handful – 20gm). The high protein and fiber in nuts make them very filling. However, they are high in calories which can add up quickly and lead to weight gain So make sure you don’t overdo it,” says Dr Meghana Pasi, Nutrition Consultant MyThali program, ArogyaWorld.
Dr. Pasi recommends some commonly consumed nuts that also help lower bad cholesterol.
1. Walnuts: They are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, the same “good” fats found in oily fish like salmon and tuna. Omega-3 helps lower your risk of abnormal heart rhythms; reduce triglyceride levels; slowing the rate of artery clogging.
2. Almonds: They are rich in Vitamin E (antioxidant), protect cells from damage from free radicals and maintain metabolic processes.
3. Peanuts: They contain Vitamin B3, niacin, antioxidants, and are a good source of proteins and fibers. They contain phytosterols and are rich in unsaturated fatty acids that help lower “bad” cholesterol.
4. Pistachios: They are rich in phytosterols (plant sterols) which are natural cholesterol lowering compounds.
5. Cashews: They are excellent sources of several minerals including zinc, copper, magnesium, selenium and vitamin K. They also have several flavonoids and their antioxidant levels improve with roasting.
Healthy ways to eat nuts
• Add to your salads, cereals, fruit, milk shakes, smoothies, curries or gravies, sautéed veggies and soups
• Avoid sugar-coated, chocolate-dipped, salted or fried nuts. This will add high sodium, fats and sugar to your diet.
• Prefer natural unsalted nuts or roast them without salt or soak them overnight and have them the next morning.