Jan 13th, 2012 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Lifestyle, Health & Fitness

Nuts Are Nature’s Top Superfood

Studies are beginning to reshape notions senior citizens have had for years about eating nuts.  We’ve been told they are unhealthy because of their high fat content.  However, a recent study that reported on several studies tells us that if we eat a limited amount of nuts on a daily basis, we are better protected against coronary heart disease (CHD).

Five studies (the Adventist Health Study, the Iowa Women Health Study, the Nurses’ Health Study, the Physicians’ Health Study, and the CARE Study) have found if seniors eat a small handful of nuts everyday, the risk of CHD diminished.  Additional clinical studies found seniors who ate walnuts, peanuts, almonds and other nuts experienced improved blood lipids.

Good Fats and Bad Fats

So why have we been told for years that nuts have high fat content and aren’t good for us?  The difference lies in the kind of fats found in nuts.  “Most fats in nuts are mono- and polyunsaturated fats that lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level.” (NIH Study)  The report goes on to say,

“Based on the data from the Nurses’ Health Study, we estimated that substitution of the fat from 1 ounce of nuts for equivalent energy from carbohydrate in an average diet was associated with a 30% reduction in CHD risk and the substitution of nut fat for saturated fat was associated with 45% reduction in risk. Given the strong scientific evidence for the beneficial effects of nuts, it seems justifiable to move nuts to a more prominent place in the United States Department of Agriculture Food Guide Pyramid. Regular nut consumption can be recommended in the context of a healthy and balanced diet.”

Another study gets a little more specific about almonds.  This is from the University of Toronto:

“Published in the journal Circulation, the study found that almonds significantly lower levels of bad cholesterol in the blood. Previous research has suggested that nut consumption reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, but since nuts are high in calories, they are generally not recommended for people on calorie-reduced diets. ‘We were quite impressed,’ Jenkins says of the reduction in the ratio of “bad” to “good” cholesterol generated by the almonds. “That ratio is very important in assessing cardiovascular risk.” Patients can eat almonds as part of a healthy, balanced diet as long as they are natural or dry-roasted, without added oils or salts, adds Jenkins, director of the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Centre at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. While nuts and seeds tend to be high in fat and calories, most of the fat is polyunsaturated or monounsaturated. The combination of fats in nuts – monounsaturates with some polyunsaturates – is ideal.” (UofTMagazine)

SCJ readers are strongly advised to talk with their primary care physicians about the value of a variety of nuts in their diet.


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