Nuts are nutrient dense – they contain a spectrum of micronutrients including LDL-lowering phytosterols, circulation-promoting arginine, minerals - potassium, calcium, magnesium, selenium, and antioxidants including phenols, resveratrol, tocopherols (vitamin E), and carotenoids.
Nuts, and almonds in particular, are some of the most beneficial foods for decreasing heart disease risk:
- A 2009 meta-analysis confirmed that almond consumption of at least 25 g per day (about 1 ounce) is associated with a 7 mg/dL decrease in total cholesterol.1
- Collectively, the data from the four most recent U.S. studies estimates that Americans who eat five or more servings of nuts per week have a 35% reduced risk of coronary heart disease.2
There are many potential mechanisms by which nuts might exert these beneficial effects on heart health – the dramatic decrease in heart disease risk from nut consumption can’t be explained by cholesterol lowering alone. Scientists are now investigating the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of nuts for their potential cardioprotective effects.
Almonds may have powerful antioxidant activity, in addition to their cholesterol-lowering activity. As well as their vitamin E, the skins of almonds contain a large and varied collection of phenol antioxidants.
A study of hyperlipidemic individuals fed either almonds or a snack with a similar fatty acid profile each day for 4 weeks compared markers of oxidative stress in these two groups. The subjects fed almonds showed reductions in markers of oxidative stress.3
This alleviation of oxidative stress was reflected in reduces serum levels of oxidized LDL.4 Since oxidation renders LDL more likely to be taken up by inflammatory cells, oxidized LDL is more dangerous in relation to atherosclerotic plaque formation. The synergistic effects of the healthy fats, antioxidants, and surely many other phytochemicals in almonds help to prevent this early and important step in the development of atherosclerosis. Though this study was reported on almonds, other nuts and seeds have similar marked effects that protect the heart.
1. Phung OJ, Makanji SS, White CM, Coleman CI. Almonds have a neutral effect on serum lipid profiles: a meta-analysis of randomized trials. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 May;109(5):865-73.
2. Kris-Etherton PM et al. The Role of Tree Nuts and Peanuts in the Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease: Multiple Potential Mechanisms. J. Nutr. 138: 1746S–1751S, 2008.
3. Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Marchie A, et al. Almonds Reduce Biomarkers of Lipid Peroxidation in Older Hyperlipidemic Subjects. J. Nutr. 138: 908–913, 2008.
USDA/Agricultural Research Service (2008, November 4). Antioxidant Effects From Eating Almonds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 25, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2008/10/081031213057.htm
4. Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Marchie A, et al. Dose response of almonds on coronary heart disease risk factors: blood lipids, oxidized low-density lipoproteins, lipoprotein(a), homocysteine, and pulmonary nitric oxide: a randomized, controlled, crossover trial. Circulation. 2002;106:1327–32.