Nuts and Cholesterol

Just how do tree nuts lower cholesterol and which ones are the best to eat? Tufts University explains in their recent Health & Nutrition Letter.

“At least part of the proven cardiovascular benefits of eating nuts can be explained by their effects on cholesterol and other blood lipids,” according to new Tufts research.

In a research study at the university, 61 controlled intervention trials totaling 2,532 participants found that tree nut intake lowered total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and lipoproteins. The key appeared to be nut dose rather than nut type.

Researchers from Tufts and the Life Sciences Research Organization combed through more than 1,300 prior clinical trials to identify those most relevant to nuts lipid effects. The average age of participants in the 61 selected studies was 45; two-thirds of the trials included both men and women. The most studied nuts in the trials were almonds and walnuts, but included pistachios, macadamia nuts, pecans, cashews, hazelnuts and Brazil nuts. Peanuts (a legume rather than a true tree nut) were not included. However, other studies have shown that eating peanuts has comparable effects to consuming tree nuts.

Tree nuts are rich in unsaturated fats, soluble fiber, antioxidants and phytosterols.

Researchers found that one daily serving (or 1 ounce) reduced total cholesterol by 4.7 mg/dL and unhealthy LDL cholesterol by 4.8 mg/dL compared to control groups. Apolipoprotein B and triglycerides were also reduced, although it was a smaller effect. The improvement in apolipoprotein was strongest among participants with Type 2 diabetes.

Want to include more nuts in your diet? Try topping oatmeal with chopped nuts; include nuts in homemade granola; use nuts in salads instead of croutons or cheese; sprinkle nuts on yogurt for a snack or dessert; use nuts to add crunch to wholegrain or vegetable dishes; combine nuts with herbs such as basil or parsley to make pesto; add nuts to stir-fry entrees.