If you’re looking for foods to keep your heart in tiptop shape, add nuts to your smart-snacking list.
According to research from Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, eating nuts regularly can help prevent heart attack and stroke, and lower the odds of dying from cardiovascular disease.
What’s more, it seems that some types of nuts deliver stronger heart benefits than others.
About the study
For the study, researchers followed 289,000 healthy men and women for up to 32 years. They analyzed participants’ diets every two years and reviewed medical records for a diagnosis of heart attack or stroke and identified cardiovascular deaths.
Compared to people who never or almost never ate nuts (any type of nut, including peanuts), participants who ate one serving (28 g) at least five times a week were 20 per cent less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, either fatal or nonfatal. (Peanuts are classified as legumes, not tree nuts.)
Walnuts, peanuts offer strong protective benefits
After analyzing specific types of nuts, it was found that eating 28 g of peanuts or tree nuts at least twice a week reduced the risk of heart attack or stroke by 15 and 23 per cent, respectively. (Tree nuts include almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts).
Walnuts, though, delivered a stronger protective punch. Participants who ate a 28 g serving just once a week had a 21 per cent lower risk of coronary heart disease.
When stroke risk was considered separately, only walnuts and peanuts were found to offer significant protection.
How nuts protect your heart
Nuts are high in heart-healthy unsaturated fats, plant protein, fibre and many nutrients (e.g., B vitamins, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium) and phytochemicals believed to benefit the heart.
A regular intake of nuts has been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and blood pressure, dampen inflammation, enhance blood vessel function and improve how the body uses insulin.
Nuts also contain flavonoids, phytochemicals that are metabolized by gut bacteria and, in so doing, may contribute cardiovascular benefits.
Notable nutrients in nuts
All nuts deliver plenty of heart-healthy unsaturated fats, calcium, magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, vitamin E and phytosterols, compounds that can help lower LDL cholesterol. Some types, though, deserve a shout-out for their exceptional nutrient contributions.
Per 28 g (22 nuts): 170 calories, 6 g protein, 15 g fat, 3 g fibre
Notable: 7 mg vitamin E, nearly half a day’s worth for adults
Per 28 g (6 nuts): 187 calories, 4 g protein, 19 g fat, 2 g fibre
Notable: 107 mg magnesium (25 per cent of a day’s worth) and nearly 10 times the daily requirement for selenium, needed for antioxidant protection and thyroid function
Per 28 g (18 nuts): 163 calories, 4 g protein, 13 g fat, 1 g fibre
Notable: 74 mg magnesium (adults need 400 mg per day)
Per 28 g (18 nuts): 183 calories, 4 g protein, 18 g fat, 3 g fibre
Notable: 4.3 mg vitamin E (adults need 15 mg per day)
Per 28 g (28 nuts): 166 calories, 7 g protein, 14 g fat, 2.4 g fibre
Notable: 4 mg niacin (one-quarter of a day’s worth); resveratrol, a phytochemical thought to contribute to longevity
Per 28 g (20 halves): 201 calories, 2.7 g protein, 21 g fat, 4 g fibre
Notable: 6.7 mg gamma tocopherol, an anti-inflammatory form of vitamin E thought to protect against heart disease and prostate cancer
Per 28 g (49 nuts): 162 calories, 6 g protein, 13 g fat, 2 g fibre
Notable: 6.6 mg gamma tocopherol
Per 28 g (14 halves): 185 calories, 4.3 g protein, 18. 5 g fat, 2 g fibre
Notable: 2.6 g alpha linolenic acid (ALA), a plant omega-3 fat; women need 1.1 g per day and men require 1.6 g. (Walnuts are the only nut that contains ALA.)
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.