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Nuts To You: Eat Them Twice A Week for Heart Health

Nuts and Seeds have long been touted as important parts of a heart healthy diet. Now, scientists have shown that eating nuts, specifically, can produce a significant reduction in the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Turns out that Nuts are little nutrition storehouses…

Nuts © vinatt com.jpg

Nuts: All kinds, any kind, are good for your heart. Just
avoid stale ones and pre-shelled, Salted ones.

Whenever folks talk abut he Mediterranean Diet, they always mention Nuts and Seeds as important components of the overall ‘menu’. Researchers from the Isfahan Cardiovascular Research Institute in Iran say Nuts have much more to offer than high levels of unsaturated Fats.

“Nuts are a good source of unsaturated Fat and contain little saturated Fat,” said Study Author Dr. Noushin Mohammadifard. “They also have protein, minerals, vitamins, fibre, phytosterols, and polyphenols which benefit heart health. European and US studies have related nuts with cardiovascular protection but there is limited evidence from the Eastern Mediterranean Region.”

What they did

This study examined the association between Nut consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease and death in the Iranian population. A total of 5,432 adults aged 35 and older with no history of cardiovascular disease were randomly selected from urban and rural areas of the Isfahan, Arak and Najafabad counties. Intake of nuts including Walnuts, Almonds, Pistachios, Hazelnuts, and Seeds was assessed in 2001 with a validated food frequency questionnaire.

Participants or family members were interviewed every two years until 2013 for the occurrence of cardiovascular events and death. The specific outcomes investigated were coronary heart disease, stroke, total cardiovascular disease, death from any cause, and death from cardiovascular disease.

What they found

During a median 12-year follow-up, there were 751 cardiovascular events (594 coronary heart disease and 157 stroke), 179 cardiovascular deaths, and 458 all-cause deaths.

Eating Nuts two or more times per week was associated with a 17% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality compared to consuming Nuts once every two weeks. The connection was robust even after adjusting for factors that could influence the relationship such as age, sex, education, smoking, and physical activity.

The takeaway

“Nuts are a good source of unsaturated Fat and contain little saturated Fat,” said Study Author Dr. Noushin Mohammadifard. “They also have protein, minerals, vitamins, fibre, phytosterols, and polyphenols which benefit heart health. European and US studies have related nuts with cardiovascular protection but there is limited evidence from the Eastern Mediterranean Region.” Until now.

“Raw fresh nuts are the healthiest,” added Mohammadifard. “Nuts should be fresh because unsaturated fats can become oxidised in stale nuts, making them harmful. You can tell if nuts are rancid by their paint-like smell and bitter or sour taste.”

My take

I agree with the Dr. that Nuts and Seeds should be a regular part of our diets. Alas, the only Nuts and Seeds most of us get (between one Yuletide season and the next) are on or in Bagels and multigrain specialty Breads.

First, there’s the issue of cost. As with most ‘preferred’ heart healthy foods, Nuts and Seeds are among the most expensive foods we can choose from the supermarket shelves. Much easier – and filling – to choose packaged, processed snacks than to opt for Nuts.

And the most common products in which we find Nuts and Seeds are so-called energy bars. But they’re high in Salt and Sugars – notably high-Fructose Corn Syrup – and are probably less healthy on balance than many other snack foods we could choose.

What’s a health conscious eater to do? Spend the money on fresh, unshelled Nuts and get them at their best. Latest studies show that consuming as little as 30 g of Fresh, unsalted Nuts twice a week can have significant heart health benefits.

~ Maggie J.

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