When I think of lowering cholesterol I think of the Paleolithic diet – the foods our ancestors ate long ago. What did they eat 10,000 or more years ago? The answer is simple – fruits, berries, nuts, and animals when they were lucky enough to kill one. It wasn’t fast food that’s for sure. Our bodies and physiologies were developed at that time on those foods. Our physiologies might not have changed over time, but our eating habits have.
Today most people shy away from nuts because of their fat content and consequent high calories. Eating nuts in reasonable amounts will not increase your weight. The secret to incorporating nuts in your diet is to substitute them in place of less heart-friendly snacks such as potato chips, donuts, cup cakes, etc. Not to add them to your existing diet.
Three ounces of pistachios (about two handfuls) have 400 calories. If you are eating 2,000 calories a day this makes up 20 percent of your caloric intake. However, the fats in nuts are the more heart friendly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, and nuts have no cholesterol. The monounsaturates with some polyunsaturates in nuts make an ideal combination of fats which have been linked to improving cholesterol levels and promoting heart health.
Many studies have shown that HDL good cholesterol levels have been boosted and LDL bad cholesterol and total cholesterol levels have been reduced when nuts were added to the test subjects’ diets. Also levels of triglycerides (blood fats) have been shown to be reduced by eating nuts. Bulk Nuts
Each type of nut will have varying levels of the following, but generally nuts contain:
o Low levels of saturated fats.
o High levels of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
o All have No cholesterol.
o Dietary fiber.
o Plant protein, which makes them a good alternative to meat; nuts are also high in the amino acid arginine.
o Vitamins E, B6, niacin and folic acid.
o Minerals such as magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, copper, selenium and potassium.
Exceptions: consumption of coconuts, palm nuts – these nuts have the highest levels of saturated fat and their consumption should be limited. Brazil nuts, macadamias, cashews and pine nuts also contain large amounts of saturated fats relative to remaining nuts.
Peanuts are really not a nut, but a legume. They have a high level of folate (lowers the risk of heart disease) and are high in fiber. Peanuts may cause allergies in some people.
Some nuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids which are also found in fish. These fatty acids improve the health of artery walls and help prevent blood clots.