Why are nuts a heart-healthy snack?

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Toby Smithson
Nutrition & Dietetics

Nuts provide heart healthy fats of mono and polyunsaturated fats instead of saturated or trans fats. Walnuts even contain Omega 3 fatty acids which is a heart healthy fat. Studies show hearth health benefits from including mono or polyunsaturated fats in our diets especially when they replace saturated or trans fat. A recent study showed people who had diabetes who had replaced saturated fat snacks with nuts were able to manage their blood sugar readings better. Nuts also have been shown to help you feel fuller from the fiber and fat content, which can be helpful for weight management.

A recent study of over 13,000 adults published in Nutrition Research showed that consuming nuts was associated with a higher level of the HDL "good" cholesterol and lower blood levels of insulin and C-reactive protein. A high level of C-reactive protein is a marker for inflammation in the body and increased risk of heart disease.

In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows nuts to boost a health claim on their labels specifying that "scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease." Nuts are rich in heart-healthy antioxidants, fiber, vitamin E, potassium, and healthy oils yet low in heart-unhealthy saturated fat.

If you are worried about the effects of eating nuts on your waistline, another study found that those who consumed peanuts and tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, and walnuts) had a lower prevalence of being overweight than non-nut consumers. Researchers look to nuts' satiety effect, or their ability to make you feel full, as a possible explanation for their potential waist-friendly attributes. The fiber, protein, and healthy unsaturated fats in nuts all contribute to satiety. 

Translation: a half ounce of nuts (12 almonds, 24 pistachios, or 7 walnut halves) as a snack, which is considered a serving, weighs in anywhere from about 80 to 95 calories, but their "fullness factor" may help you feel satisfied for less calories overall. Compare that to an ounce serving of wheat crackers (about 16 Wheat Thins), which serves up 140 calories, but lacks the fiber and protein-rich satiety. Thus, you may find yourself over-munching on the crackers (and the calories) to get that same feeling of fullness.

The beauty of nuts is that they are a transportable snack in your briefcase, pocketbook, and/or backpack. Pack a half ounce in a plastic container for a convenient portioned snack in between meals to curb your appetite and potentially improve your health.
Kate Geagan
Nutrition & Dietetics
Watch as Nutritionist Kate Geagan discusses why nuts are such a nutritious, heart-healthy snack. 

Emilia Klapp
Nutrition & Dietetics

Nuts are rich in monounsaturated fats, which lower LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. Keep them in the refrigerator to prevent them from getting rancid. A good snack size would be to follow the amount of nuts provided to a group of study participants who experienced lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol by eating daily:

  • 15 g walnuts (about 3 nuts);
  • 7.5 g almonds (about 6 nuts);
  • 7.5 g hazelnuts (about 8 nuts).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.