It’s not a mystery that heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the US and worldwide.
Coronary heart disease (CAD), the most common type of heart disease, affects over 18.2 million adults and has been linked to high levels of “bad” cholesterol.
Are nuts high in this “bad” cholesterol, and can you get away with daily small portions?
Nuts are low in cholesterol, and since most of them have none, they are extremely good for heart health.
When introduced into a balanced diet, they can help you lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in your blood thanks to their unsaturated fat content.
The cholesterol level should be checked and monitored throughout your life, but a balanced and nutritious diet can help you better manage your levels.
Learn more about the benefits of introducing nuts into your diet below.
Understanding Good and Bad Cholesterol
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death across the world.
High levels of bad cholesterol are generally linked to an increased incidence of heart disease.
To lower the levels of cholesterol, official guidelines by the CDC suggest:
- Adopt a balanced and nutritious diet
- Quit smoking
- Reduce alcohol consumption
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Practice regular physical activity
As you can see, most of the factors that can increase heart disease’s chance relate to your diet, so you need to understand how foods impact your health.
When it comes down to cholesterol, and why nuts are, in fact, good for heart health, you might want to understand what it is and how it can cause heart disease.
Cholesterol is naturally produced by the liver and essential for the production of cell membranes.
When cholesterol is within normal levels, it naturally travels through the bloodstream and does not cause issues.
There are two types of cholesterol:
- Low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol is considered blood cholesterol and increases as a consequence of lifestyle factors and foods high in saturated fats. When the levels of LDL cholesterol rises, it can clog the blood vessels and cause heart disease.
- High-density lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol is the good cholesterol responsible for regulating the presence of bad cholesterol by carrying any extra back to the liver to be expelled by the body.
Nuts play a crucial role in managing the levels of bad and good cholesterol in the blood.
What Nuts Are Lower in Cholesterol?
Nuts are low in cholesterol, and most of them contain very little if any cholesterol.
While they have a bad reputation as high-fat foods, it is essential to understand that nuts are unsaturated fat, which is the good fatty acids also contained in avocado, olive, and seeds.
Unsaturated fats are essential for your health, as they help you maintain balanced energy levels and assist your body in absorbing essential minerals and vitamins.
They can also help fight bad cholesterol and bring its levels down.
When consumed in moderation, nuts are incredible allies that can help you reduce bad cholesterol levels, protect your heart, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
The Best Nuts To Lower Cholesterol
Mayo Clinic suggests the following nuts for lowering cholesterol levels:
- Brazil nuts
However, nuts are high-calorie, high-fat foods that need to be consumed in moderation.
Overeating nuts can lead to weight gain and can increase your chances of experiencing heart disease.
What Nuts Are High in Fiber?
Aside from being a source of unsaturated fats, nuts are packed with other nutrients, minerals, and vitamins that make them a vital ingredient for your diet.
In particular, nuts are exceptionally high in fiber.
Fiber is carbohydrates that the body cannot break down into sugar molecules and pass through the stomach undigested.
Thanks to this property, fiber helps the body regulate and use sugars.
Fiber is essential for your digestive system’s health, so you need to eat enough fiber-rich foods for a healthy lifestyle, which include fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and cereals.
All nuts are high in fiber compared to other foods.
Check out the fiber content of a handful of nuts (28g or 1oz):
- Hazelnuts – 2.9g
- Macadamias – 2.4g
- Brazil nuts – 2.1g
- Pecans – 2.9g
- Peanuts – 2.6g
- Almonds – 3.5g
- Pistachios – 2.9g
Of course, since you should only include about a handful of nuts a day, you should also eat other low-calorie foods such as vegetables.
What Nuts Are High in Omega-3?
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that have the responsibility to protect and enhance important body functions.
Studies have shown that consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids can decrease heart disease incidence and prevent conditions such as eczema, arthritis, and certain types of cancer.
The three most common and important types of Omega-3 fatty acids are:
- Alpha-linolenic acid
- Docosahexaenoic acid
- Eicosapentaenoic acid
While the first type of Omega-3 can be easily found in plants, the other two are mainly present in animal products, fish, and algae.
However, you can get Omega-3 from flaxseed powder and vegan Omega-3 supplements.
One of the main characteristics of Omega-3 to remember is that our bodies do not naturally produce them.
Therefore, they must be consumed from the foods in your diet.
Nuts should be an essential component of a healthy diet, mainly because they are naturally rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Some of the best nuts that have plenty of Omega-3 includes:
- Macadamia nuts
What Nuts Are Highest in Protein?
Proteins are the essential building blocks of our body and are crucial for the body’s proper development and functions.
However, there has been confusion regarding how much protein to consume for a healthy lifestyle as an increasing number of people resort to protein shakes and high-protein foods to ensure they consume the proper intake.
Nonetheless, studies have found that the right amount of protein is around 0.7 grams of protein for every pound of body weight.
By selecting the right foods and ingredients to consume during the day, it is not difficult to consume enough protein for a healthy lifestyle.
In particular, nuts are foods that are high in protein and essential minerals, and vitamins.
They are easy to add to your diet, versatile, and extremely healthy.
In the list below, you can find the nuts with the most significant amount of protein for one serving (around 30g or 1oz):
- Almonds: 7g
- Walnuts: 4.5g
- Pistachios: 6g
- Cashews: 5g
- Pine nuts: 4.5g
- Brazil nuts: 4.75g
- Peanuts: 9.5g
- Hazelnuts: 5g
Additionally, nuts are an essential source of protein for individuals who have embraced a predominantly plant-based diet.
Therefore, if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, make sure you are consuming a wide variety of nuts in your diet.
What Nuts Contain Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is a vitamin that has been discovered as recently as 1926.
However, since then, it has been connected to various health conditions and health levels.
The primary responsibilities of vitamin B12 are to protect the nervous system, keep the blood cells healthy, and create DNA.
When adequately consumed, Vitamin B12 can prevent anemia and combat fatigue.
Vitamin B12 is primarily produced by animals thanks to interactions with certain bacteria.
Since the human body lacks this important bacteria, we cannot produce vitamin B12, and we have to take it from food.
You can find out more about vitamin B12 in the video below:
Animals produce the best B12 quality and quantity, and the best sources of B12 are considered to be fish, eggs, poultry, meat, and dairy.
While some studies look for the presence of B12 in plant-based foods, more research is needed to understand what foods might provide this critical compound.
Nuts, being a minimally-processed, plant-based food, don’t contain B12.
However, you might be able to find breakfast foods such as granola and cereals that have been fortified with B12 and include nuts.
Vegans might not like this next point, but the bioavailability of B12 from plant foods and fortified foods is minimal and does not provide the same quality of B12 that animal foods do.
However, some seaweed like chlorella and spirulina can provide a similar quality of B12 that animals do.
You can use the dried seaweed powder in your morning smoothie for a boost of energy for the day.
If you aren’t able to eat nuts due to allergies and need some B12 in your diet, there are some liquid B12 supplements that are high-quality and provide you with the right sort of B12.
Nuts are not high in cholesterol.
Aside from not increasing the level of bad cholesterol in the blood, they also help you reduce it, as well as reduce the risk of heart disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke.
It is essential to remember that nuts are high in calories and fats, so you should consume them in moderation to prevent side effects such as weight gain.
Other essential nutrients present in nuts include fiber, protein, minerals, and vitamins.
Some nuts are rich in Omega-3, which can protect cardiovascular health.
I’m Chris Watson & the Founder of EatForLonger.com. I’m a food and wellbeing enthusiast researching and sharing foodstuffs and simple food-based concepts, such as fasting and clean eating.
I hope it inspires you to make tiny changes to what you eat and when you eat while optimizing your healthspan and all-around well-being.
Read more About Me here.