Eating nuts as part of a healthy diet can be good for your heart. Nuts, which contain unsaturated fatty acids and other nutrients, are a great snack food too. Although some nuts have more heart-healthy nutrients and fats than do others, the type of nut you eat isn’t really important, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, almost every type of nut has a lot of nutrition packed into a tiny package.
Besides being packed with protein, most nuts contain at least some of these heart-healthy nutrients
- Unsaturated fats – it’s thought that the “good” fats in nuts, the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can lower bad cholesterol levels
- Omega-3 fatty acids – found in many nuts these are a healthy form of fatty acids that seem to help your heart by, among other things, preventing dangerous heart rhythms that can lead to heart attacks. Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in many kinds of fish, but nuts are one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids
- Fibre – contained in all nuts and which helps lower your cholesterol. Fibre is also thought to play a role in preventing diabetes
- Vitamin E – may help stop the development of plaque development in your arteries, which can narrow them, leading to chest pain, coronary artery disease or a heart attack
- Plant sterols – some nuts contain this substance that can help lower your cholesterol. Plant sterols are often added to products like margarine and orange juice for additional health benefits, but sterols occur naturally in nuts
- L-arginine – nuts are also a source of this substance that may help improve the health of your artery walls by making them more flexible and less prone to blood clots that can block blood flow.
There are many nuts to choose from, the benefits of each one varies.
- Almonds – calcium-rich almonds are a good choice to ensure you’re getting enough of this bone-building mineral. Almonds are also high in vitamin E, a nutrient which helps to improve the condition and appearance of your skin
- Brazil nuts – these are a good source of the mineral selenium, which we need to produce the active thyroid hormone. Selenium also supports immunity and helps wounds to heal
- Chestnuts – these nuts have a low GI rating, the lowest fat and calories, chestnuts are rich in starchy carbs and fibre, and in their raw form are a good source of vitamin C. They’re lower in protein than other nuts but make a useful contribution of B vitamins including B6. Ground chestnut flour can be used as a gluten-free flour for cakes and bakes, or buy fresh and roast for a tasty snack
- Hazelnuts – these nuts are a good source of folate, which plays a key role in keeping homocysteine within normal levels. They provide good levels of fibre, potassium and vitamin E
- Macadamias – these nuts have the highest monounsaturated levels of fat and they are a rich source of fibre and make a useful contribution of minerals including magnesium, calcium and potassium
- Pecans – these nuts are packed with plant sterols, valuable compounds that are effective at lowering cholesterol levels, also being antioxidant-rich which helps prevent the plaque formation that causes hardening of the arteries. They are rich in oleic acid, the healthy fat found in olives and avocado and a good source of vitamin B3
- Pistachios – these nuts are rich in vitamin B6, important for keeping hormones balanced and healthy. They are the only nut to contain reasonable levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that play an important role in protecting the eyes. Pistachios also contain potassium and fibre
- Walnuts – these nuts have an excellent antioxidant content meaning they are useful in the fight against cancer. They are also a good source of mono-unsaturated, heart-friendly fats, and studies show they help to lower the bad form of cholesterol (LDL). Finally, they’re rich in omega-3, so they are a great alternative if you don’t eat oily fish
Nuts are high in fat, but much of it is the heart-healthy variety. The amounts of saturated fat, the type of fat we should avoid, varies between nuts. People who eat nuts as part of a heart-healthy diet can lower the low-density lipoprotein, bad cholesterol level in their blood. High cholesterol is one of the primary causes of heart disease. Also eating nuts may reduce your risk of developing blood clots that can cause a fatal heart attack and appear to improve the health of the lining of your arteries. So as long as we include nuts sensibly and in a healthy way in our diet, then we can only benefit from these little powerhouses.