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The Best Nuts for Your Health

Nuts can up your heart health, lower cholesterol—and even help you live longer.

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Are nuts part of your diet? If you answered no you may want to put nuts on your grocery list. Research shows that eating nuts can help you live longer. One 2013 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who regularly ate nuts not only lived longer than people who ate few or no nuts, they also gained less weight. And that’s not counting the specific health benefits like improved cholesterol levels, a lower association with cancer and heart disease deaths, and more.

All nuts are good choices in moderation (grab a handful, not a bowlful). But because a number of studies have focused on specific types of nuts, we’re sharing some of the research highlights.

Walnuts

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Walnuts don’t just taste good sprinkled with cinnamon—these crunchy nuts are also great for a healthy heart. Studies show that diets high in walnuts may help lower both total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein (LDL), a.k.a. “bad” cholesterol. Plus, walnuts are full of linolenic acid, which is linked to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease. One more benefit: Omega 3 fatty acids in walnuts help keep your brain in shape and may even lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Almonds

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Like walnuts, almonds may help lower both total cholesterol and bad cholesterol, too. Almonds are also high in magnesium, which may help lower blood pressure and potentially reduce inflammation. Plus, almonds can boost your levels of vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps protect against heart disease and cell damage. It’s recommended that you eat 15 mg of vitamin E daily to get its heart-protecting benefits—eating just 2 ounces of almonds daily can get you there. 

Macadamia Nuts

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These buttery-tasting nuts have lots of fiber, and foods rich in fiber can both protect your heart and help you feel full for hours. There aren’t a lot of studies on the health benefits of macadamia nuts, but some research does show that they may help improve blood lipid profiles. They also have among the highest amount of monounsaturated fat, a type of healthy fat, of any nut.

Check out this surprisingly healthy recipe for chocolate-macadamia nut clusters.

Pistachios

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Everyone knows that bananas are high in potassium, but did you know that pistachios are, too? Potassium helps regulate blood pressure and promotes a healthy heart. Other nutrients that pistachios are have include vitamin K, magnesium, thiamin, dietary fiber and protein. And because pistachios help you feel full, they may also play a part in weight management. Another pistachio perk: a 2014 study found that eating 2 ounces of pistachios per day improved blood sugar, insulin levels and other markers of insulin resistance among people with prediabetes.

Pecans

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Pecans don’t just make good holiday pies. Some research suggests that people who eat diets rich in pecans excrete more fat in their stools—which isn’t very pleasant to think about, but it may explain why high-fat nuts tend not to be associated with weight gain. Pecans are also high in minerals, and are said to contain among the most antioxidants of any type of nut.

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