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Nutrition

No Nuts About It!!


Although people often think of nuts as a high-fat snack they ought to steer clear of, recent studies reveal a surprising parallel between the consumption of certain nuts and a lowered risk of coronary heart disease.

Harvard University's Nurses' Health Study observed the diet of over 86,000 nurses from the ages of 34 to 59, for 10 years. Women who eat more than five ounces of nuts a week (including peanuts/peanut butter) have a 35 percent reduction in risk of total coronary heart disease, compared to women who eat only one ounce of nuts a month or none at all, according to Dr. Frank Hu, lead author and research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health, and principal investigator of the study.

Several theories explain why nuts are beneficial to coronary health.

Nuts have a heart-healthy fat profile. They are a good source of unsaturated fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, and contain little saturated fat. As a plant-based food they contain absolutely no cholesterol.

Most nuts are a rich source of the amino acid arginine, a precursor of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps increase blood flow to the heart and helps inhibit blood clotting.

Nuts contain significant amounts of magnesium, vitamin E, fiber, copper, potassium, and alpha-linoleic acid — all of which are beneficial to coronary health.

Studies in which heart-healthy diets have been supplemented with relatively large amounts of almonds have shown significant reductions in total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the so-called "bad cholesterol") levels, but preservation of high-density lipoprotein (the "good cholesterol") levels.

Even after other heart risk factors — such as age, smoking, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, exercise, and intake of vitamin supplements — were taken into consideration, the results remained the same.

"It's becoming increasingly clear that the evidence for heart-healthy benefits from nuts is mounting," said Hu. "Americans should stop being afraid of nuts and learn to fit this nutrient-rich and likely cardioprotective food into their diets."

For additional information or recipe ideas, check out the Peanut Institute Web site at www.peanut-institute.org.


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