A Moment of Science

Nuts, Nuts, Good for Your Heart

Are nuts an overly fatty food or healthy snack?

nuts in a jar

Photo: Adam Wyles (Flickr)

What is your favorite type of nut?

Today’s program starts with a word association game. What comes to mind when you hear these words: almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios. Are you thinking scrumptious and satisfying? Or unhealthy and extravagant?

Healthy Nut

For many health-conscious folks, nuts are on the list of foods to avoid because they’re high in fat. And eighty to ninety percent of the calories in nuts do come from fat. But not all fats are created equal. The fat in nuts is unsaturated fat, which acts differently in the body than the saturated fat found in meat and dairy products. While saturated fat can raise harmful LDL cholesterol levels in the blood, the unsaturated fat in nuts can have the opposite effect, actually lowering the level of harmful cholesterol.

The saturated fat in meat and dairy products has long been associated with an increased risk of heart disease. But in several recent studies, folks who regularly ate nuts had a decreased risk of heart disease–anywhere from 35 to 50% lower, depending on the study.

Great Snack!

So nuts aren’t the nutrition bad-guys that many people think. Quite the opposite–a handful of nuts makes a great snack or substitute for meat in a main course, and not only because of the benefits of the unsaturated fat. Nuts also contain a substantial amount of protein and tend to satisfy hunger. Of course, as with any high fat food, eating too much can put on the pounds. But taken in moderation, nuts are not only tasty, but good for your heart!

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