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Nutty Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy

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Nutty Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy

By Jane Harrison, R.D., Staff Nutritionist, myOptumHealth

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Research shows that adding nuts to your diet can help reduce your risk of heart disease. Learn more about the health benefits of nuts and how to incorporate them into your daily diet.

Love nuts? Research continues to show that eating nuts as part of a healthy diet can be good for you. This doesn't mean you should pile them on top of your next hot fudge sundae, down bags of chocolate covered peanuts or eat a slice of pecan pie and expect your cholesterol to go down. Read on to get the full scoop.

Nuts and your heart

  • If you have heart disease, nuts are healthier than many other snacks.
  • Eating nuts as part of a heart-healthy diet lowers LDL ("bad" cholesterol) levels in your blood.
  • Eating nuts reduces your risk for blood clots that can cause a fatal heart attack.
  • Nuts are rich in unsaturated fats (including Omega-3), which can help your heart.
  • Nuts are high in vitamin E and fiber.
  • Nuts are a good vegetarian source of protein.

How much should you eat?

  • All nuts are good, but some are better than others. Walnuts have the highest amount of omega-3 fats. Almonds, macadamias, hazelnuts, cashews, peanuts and pecans also rank high.
  • Nuts lose their healthy benefits if covered in salt, chocolate or sugar.
  • Nuts pack a lot of calories for a small amount, so watch your portion size. The recommended amount is two ounces of nuts each day. However, as little as two ounces per week seem to produce benefits.
  • Nuts should be used to replace less healthy snacks or foods. Adding nuts to a diet high in saturated fat will not help.

Menu ideas

  • Add 2 tablespoons of nuts to yogurt in the morning.
  • Sprinkle nuts on top of a salad instead of bacon bits or high-fat cheese.
  • Instead of a bagel and cream cheese, spread a whole-wheat English muffin with light cream cheese and dot with crushed walnuts.
  • Enjoy a handful of nuts with a piece of fresh fruit for an afternoon snack.
  • Mix nuts with berries and add to cold or hot cereal.
  • Munch on a small handful of soynuts instead of chips.
  • Mix nuts into quick breads or muffin mixes.
  • Add cashews to a stir-fry recipe.
  • Instead of crackers and cheese, spread a tablespoon of natural peanut butter onto celery or a sliced apple.

The chart below shows the amount of nuts in one ounce, along with other nutritional information. Remember, the fat in nuts is mostly healthy. Nuts are also packed with other vitamins and minerals.

Nuts (1 ounce) Calories Total Fat (g) Protein Fiber
Almonds (24) 160 14 6 3
Brazil nuts (6) 190 19 4 2
Cashews (18) 160 13 4 1
Chestnuts(3) 65 0.6 1 1
Hazelnuts (20) 180 17 4 3
Macadamia nuts (8) 160 17 2 2
Pecans (20 halves) 299 20 3 3
Pine nuts (157) 160 14 7 3
Pistachios (47) 160 13 6 3
Walnuts (12 halves) 160 15 4 2
For comparison
Potato chips (12 chips) 150 10 2 0
Doritos (11 chips) 150 8 1 0
Double Stuf Oreos (3) 210 12 2 0
Glazed doughnut (1) 200 12 2 0.5
Snickers bar (1) 280 14 3 1