What Is the Connection between Nuts and Cholesterol?

Donna Johnson

People with high levels of cholesterol, a component of the body that resembles both fat and wax, are often instructed to change their diets. Eating the right types of foods can not only lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, but also raise a person's high-density lipoprotein (HDL) numbers. The connection between nuts and cholesterol is that some types of nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, can lower LDL cholesterol by as much as 10 percent and increase HDL levels as much as 20 percent.

Shelled and whole almonds.
Shelled and whole almonds.

LDL cholesterol is often referred to as the "bad" cholesterol. The best LDL levels are less than 100 mg/dL, with anything above 159 mg/dL classified as high. High concentrations of LDL can cause blood vessels to be clogged, as the cholesterol sticks together and to the walls of the arteries, raising the chance of heart attack or stroke. The key ingredient in the relationship between nuts and cholesterol is unsaturated fat, an ingredient in many nuts that can lower LDL levels.

Walnuts are rich in fatty acids, which may help lower cholesterol.
Walnuts are rich in fatty acids, which may help lower cholesterol.

The other type of cholesterol, HDL, is known as the "good" cholesterol. In contrast to LDL, higher levels of HDL are actually desirable. HDL readings should ideally be above 59 mg/dL. Levels below 40 mg/dL indicate a higher risk of developing heart disease. The total cholesterol reading, including both HDL and LDL levels, should be no greater than 200 mg/dL. Patients may be able to bring their levels closer to the ideal by eating nuts and taking other cholesterol controlling measures, such as exercising regularly.

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in walnuts, almonds and other nuts, add to the connection between nuts and cholesterol by improving overall cardiovascular health. These acids are also found in different types of fish, such as salmon and sardines. Nuts are a good alternative source for people who do not want to eat fish or cannot due to allergies or other dietary concerns.

As nuts and cholesterol management go hand-in-hand, one may consider changing his diet slightly to maximize the health benefits of nuts. Generally, these dietary changes can involve as little as 2 ounces (about 56.70 g) of nuts per day to get the most benefit from the fewest calories. Adding nuts to a salad in place of croutons will give the same crunchy texture with far more health benefits, for instance. Nuts can also be eaten raw, toasted or with cereal. Nuts covered in sugar or chocolate coatings should be eaten sparingly, as these preparations add to the total calorie content per serving.

Sardine oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve cardiovascular health.
Sardine oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve cardiovascular health.

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