For years my uncle has tossed back handfuls of peanuts every day. And although he’s in his 60s, he’s got the physique and energy level of a teenager, and the low cholesterol and blood pressure to go along with it. Perhaps it’s good genes, or maybe he’s suspected what an analysis published this month in the Archives of Internal Medicine has shown to be true: Nuts help lower cholesterol.
In the analysis, researchers looked at data from 25 trials conducted in 7 countries among 583 men and women with either normal or high cholesterol levels, none of which were taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. The trials compared a control group to a group consuming an average of 2.4 ounces of nuts per day, including walnuts, peanuts, macadamia, pistachios, almonds, or hazelnuts. The participants who consumed nuts had an average 5.1 percent reduction in total cholesterol, a 7.4 percent reduction in LDL or "bad" cholesterol, and an 8.3 percent change in ratio of LDL cholesterol to HDL or "good" cholesterol.
While this is good news about one of America’s favorite snack foods, it’s not brand new news. Most nuts are rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fats and fiber, and contain lots of cholesterol-lowering substances called phytosterols. In 2003, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated that eating 1.5 ounces of nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachio nuts or walnuts) per day helps to reduce coronary heart disease risk. Nuts are also on the American Heart Association’s list of healthy foods for people with heart failure. And two Harvard studies have linked nut consumption with reduced heart-attack risk.
What are some foods you eat to lower your cholesterol or keep your cholesterol at a healthy level?