Whether it's peanuts, walnuts or pecans, nuts are good for us. More evidence of nuts' goodness came in a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in May that looked at their cholesterol-lowering benefits.
Researchers reviewed 25 studies, conducted in 7 countries, that included 583 men and women who had high blood cholesterol levels and were not taking medication for the condition.
They found that those who consumed 67 grams of nuts — roughly one-third cup — improved their cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They lowered their total cholesterol by 5 percent, the bad LDL cholesterol by 7 percent and the ratio of LDL to HDL (good cholesterol) by 8 percent. Triglyceride levels also dropped by 10 percent in those who initially had high levels. High triglycerides are associated with heart disease, as are high levels of LDL.
The more nuts people ate, the greater the benefit. Moreover, the higher the participants' LDL, the greater cholesterol improvement they seemed to get from eating nuts.
Some nutrition experts suggest certain nuts are more beneficial than others, due to their greater levels of healthy unsaturated fats and low levels of saturated fats. But this study found benefit in all kinds of nuts.
According to the July issue of University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter, people who eat nuts regularly not only have lower cholesterol levels, they also are less likely to develop heart disease and diabetes.
Even though nuts have a lot of calories, the Wellness Letter says that people who regularly eat nuts do not weigh more than their nut-shunning counterparts. This may be because the protein, fiber and fat in nuts are satisfying and fill you up.
How many nuts is a good amount to eat? Cholesterol-wise, it seems, the more the better. But that has to be balanced with how many calories you want to take in. You also need to look at the salt and sugar added by food processors. One-fourth cup of peanuts has 160 calories. Peanut butter and other nut butters also have cholesterol benefits, although some have unhealthy trans fats added, so be sure to read the labels.
Other fun facts from the Wellness Letter about nuts:
- Macadamia nuts pack the most calories — 205 per ounce
- Chestnuts have the least — 70 calories per ounce
- Dry roasted peanuts have as many calories as oil-roasted
- Almonds have the most calcium of any nut
- Walnuts are richest in the same beneficial omega-3 fatty acid that fish have
So even if you don't have high cholesterol, you can feel virtuous eating a fistful of nuts every day.