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Which Healthy Nuts Are Best To Snack On to Help Lower Cholesterol?

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Updated July 02, 2014

Almonds
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Question: Which Healthy Nuts Are Best To Snack On to Help Lower Cholesterol?

Answer: Healthy nuts, such as almonds, pistachios and walnuts, contain high amounts of unsaturated fat -- or “good” fats -- which help lower total cholesterol levels and LDL -- or “bad” cholesterol -- levels. When trying to decide which nuts are the best to eat, look at the amount of unsaturated fats in each one. Ideally, high amounts of unsaturated fats and lower amounts of saturated fat should be found in the nuts.

Of the different types of nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, and pistachios appear to have the highest amounts of unsaturated fats and lowest amounts of saturated fats. Even peanuts, one of the most beloved nuts in the bunch, also contain high amounts of unsaturated fat and lower amounts of saturated fat. Although their unsaturated fat profile encourages heart health, farmers have now developed a way to grow high-oleic peanuts. These high-oleic peanuts have a higher content of unsaturated fat and lower content of saturated fat when compared with regular peanuts. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given approval these nuts, in addition to almonds, to receive a ”heart-healthy” distinction on their labeling.

While macadamia nuts and brazil nuts contain high amounts of unsaturated fats, they also contain higher amounts of saturated fats when compared to other nuts. Because of this, they are not allowed the “heart-healthy” distinction on their labeling. Nonetheless, the amount of saturated fats in these nuts is low in comparison to what you would find in other, high fat snacks such as chips and cookies.

So, if are looking for a healthy snack to keep your hunger at bay, a handful of any type of nut will do. Not only do nuts contain a high amount of unsaturated fat, they also contain phytosterols, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein.


Sources:

Coates AM, Howe PR. Edible nuts and metabolic health. Curr Opinion Lipidol. 2007; 18(1):25-30.

USDA Agricultural Research Center--Nutrient Data Laboratory. 2007. Available at: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/. Accessed 24 September 2007.

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