Including almonds in a healthy diet may help to reduce cholesterol levels.
In a small study, Toronto researchers found that adults who substituted 74 grams of almonds (about 2 ounces) for other foods reduced their LDL ("bad") cholesterol by nearly 10% after one month. Adults who consumed about half as many nuts also saw their LDL cholesterol levels fall by 4%.
However, adding nuts to a diet already sufficient in calories and fat could lead to weight gain, a risk factor for heart disease. While nuts are rich in protein and healthy monounsaturated fat, they are also high in calories (one cup of nuts packs about 850 calories!). People have to remember when they eat nuts they have to cut calories elsewhere in their diet.
The study included 27 adults with high cholesterol and an average age of 64 years, who agreed to follow three diets with a different snack of about 420 calories per day, for a month each. The first diet included a snack of 74 grams of almonds, the second diet included about 37 grams of almonds plus one-half of a muffin, and the third diet substituted a whole-wheat muffin, low in saturated fat, for the nuts. The muffin had roughly the same amount of protein and saturated and polyunsaturated fat as the nuts.
Almonds are a good source of monounsaturated fat, found also in avocados, olive oil and other types of nuts. When substituted for saturated fat in animal foods or trans fat, which is found in processed foods and baked goods, monounsaturated fat has been shown to lower cholesterol levels.
Indeed, adults eating the diet with more almonds reduced their LDL cholesterol by 9.4% and lowered their ratio of LDL to HDL ("good") cholesterol--an important marker of heart disease risk--by 12%, after one month.
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