walnuts-552975_1920Nuts are a wonder food. There is an increasing amount of research to suggest that nuts should not only be part of a healthy diet, but moderate consumption is also being linked to heart health.

While nuts have received a bad rap in the past for being high in fat, it’s actually that same fat content that is thought to be responsible for their health benefits — specifically their link to heart health.

“Nuts in general contain as much as 80 per cent fat. However, the type of fat found in nuts is unsaturated fat — specifically monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. Both of these unsaturated fats are known for their ability to reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also called “bad” cholesterol, when consumed in moderation.” (CBC News, October 5, 2007)

In 1996, the Iowa Women’s Healthy Study found that women who ate nuts four times a week were 40% less likely to die of heart disease. Two years later, another study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found a similar result in another study. The same potential heart health benefits of nuts were also found among men. In 2002, the Physician’s Health Study found that men who consumed nuts 2 or more times per week had reduced risks of sudden cardiac death.

The Adventist Health Study, which examined the diets of more than 31,000 Seventh Day Adventists, found that participants who consumed nuts more than four times per week experienced 51 per cent fewer heart attacks compared to those who consumed nuts less than once per week. These findings were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 1992. (CBC News, October 5, 2007)

Here is a quick breakdown of the heavyweights:

  • Pistachios – contain a plant cholesterol which can produce a 10 point drop in your triglycerides and a 16 point decline in your LDL (bad) cholesterol, according to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

Contain: 3 grams of fibre, 6 grams of protein, 7 grams of monounsaturated fat, and 61 mg of phytosterols.

  • Walnuts – contain 2.5 g omega 3s per 1 oz serving. Getting more omega 3s in your diet may help ward off depression and heart attack, according to Harvard research.

Contain: 2 g of fibre, 4 g of protein, 2.5 g of monounsaturated fat and 2542 mg of omega 3s.

  • Brazil nuts -pack an amazing amount of selenium, a mineral linked to prostrate cancer protection.University of Arizona scientists found that selenium may also prevent colon cancer in men.

Contain: 2 grams of fibre, 4 grams of protein, 7 grams of monounsaturated fat, and 544 micrograms of selenium.

  • Pecans – pack the most antioxidants of any nut. Help to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Contain: 3 grams of fibre, 3 grams of protein, 12 grams of monounsaturated fat, and 144 millimoles of antioxidants per oz.

  • Hazelnuts – eating a handful of the daily boosts HDL (good) cholesterol levels by 12 percent, according to a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Contain: 3 grams of fibre, 4 grams of protein, 13 grams of monounsaturated fat, and 27 mg of phytosterols.

Seeds are also great. Research shows flax, pumpkin and sunflower seeds may offer the same heart health benefits.

As with all things, moderation is the key – limit your intake to 1 to 2 oz daily to reap the numerous health benefits.