Nuts for Heart Health in Lenoir, NC
Nuts are nutrient-dense foods that supply a wide array of health benefits, as they are comprised of unsaturated fatty acids or "good fats" and other bioactive compounds such as L-arginine, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Long ago, our ancestors gathered and consumed nuts as a means of survival. In modern times, that trend diminished when the low-fat diet took to the scene and, as a flawed weight loss plan, demonized all fats as part of its philosophy.
Fortunately, the truth about low-fat diets has come to the surface and more people are now aware that the body needs healthy fat sources to achieve optimal heart health and overall wellness. Armed with this information, nut consumption is regaining traction and is particularly prevalent in people who adhere to the Mediterranean diet —a diet that focuses on the quality of foods consumed as well as the practice of eating food.
As an inexpensive and easy-to-prepare food for our busy lifestyles, nuts can be the perfect snack to keep you full throughout the day, all while improving your heart and overall health. To schedule an appointment with a healthcare practitioner in Lenoir who can discuss nuts for heart health and how to incorporate nuts into your balanced diet, call (423) 482-8711 or contact Dr. Dalal Akoury online.
The Cardiovascular Benefits of Nuts
Nuts of all varieties provide numerous health benefits due to their monounsaturated fats, phytosterols, antioxidants, and fiber content.
Research studies have demonstrated a correlation between nut consumption and a reduced incidence of coronary heart disease in both men and women. Research has also shown that regular nut intake can lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation, and helps maintain blood sugar control—all of which are important factors to promoting heart health. In fact, emerging evidence indicates that consuming a handful of heart healthy nuts per day can significantly decrease your risk of developing heart disease.
Nuts contain a very high fat profile—averaging 80-90% fat—and most of that fat is monounsaturated. Monounsaturated fats help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol or "bad cholesterol" while maintaining levels of "good cholesterol" or high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats are a favorable substitute for saturated fats because saturated fats—found in animal fats such as red meat and dairy—contribute to heart disease by increasing levels of LDL cholesterol which clog up the arteries.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also very beneficial to reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease; they reduce the incidences of blood clots, increase good cholesterol, and protect against the development of an irregular heart rhythm. Walnuts in particular are high in the essential omega-3 fatty acids.
Nuts are naturally high in plant sterols, or phytosterols, substances that can help lower cholesterol levels. The sterols produced by plants are similar to cholesterol in structure, but their effects in the body are very different. While cholesterol derived from animal products such as red meat, whole milk, and cheese contributes to atherosclerosis—clogging of the arteries—plant sterols help displace cholesterol during digestion. As a result, dietary cholesterol is eliminated from your system rather than absorbed into the bloodstream.
Antioxidants, Fiber and Other Nutrients
Certain nuts such as walnuts and pecans are high in antioxidants—like vitamin E—which help reduce oxidative stress (fight free radical damage) and support arterial health. Nuts' natural fiber content helps you stay full, promotes digestive health and helps reduce cholesterol levels.
Nuts are a great source of protein and contain nutrients that support hearth health such as folic acid, niacin, magnesium, B6, copper, and potassium. They also contain the amino acid L-arginine which produces nitric oxide—a compound that relaxes constricted blood vessels resulting in improved blood flow and circulation throughout the body.
What are the Healthiest Nuts to Consume?
Different nuts contain different nutrient contents. To reap all the heart healthy benefits, it's advised to consume a variety of nuts, including:
- Macademia nuts
- Brazil nuts
It is best to buy nuts in their raw, unsalted, preferably organic, form. They can be lightly toasted in your oven but should not be heated or roasted at high temperatures in order to maintain their nutrient and healthy fatty acid composition. Many of the pre-packaged nuts are often coated with unhealthy oils, salt, chocolate, and sugar and should be avoided all-together.
Nuts: How Much Should I Consume?
Several of the largest studies conducted on nut intake, including the Adventist Study, the Nurses' Health Study and the Physicians' Health Study, have shown that eating nuts several times per week correlates with a 30-50% decrease in myocardial infarction, sudden cardiac death, and cardiovascular disease.
Because nuts are high in monounsaturated fats, they have a high caloric content, averaging 185-200 calories per ounce serving; one cup of nuts can contain as much as 500 calories. Therefore, cutting back on certain foods, particularly unhealthy snacks, and replacing them with about two dozen nuts will provide heart-healthy nutrients without the concern of weight gain.
If you are looking to make changes to your diet, a healthcare provider in Lenoir can help you implement a strategy that best optimizes your health by leveraging healthy nuts and other key foods. Call (423) 482-8711 or contact Dr. Dalal Akoury online to get started today.
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