How A Diet Including Nuts Can Make Your Heart Healthier

When the afternoon hunger pangs strike, you have several choices in a vending machine. You could choose cheese crackers, beef jerky, or mini donuts — but why not choose nuts? They might pack a ton of fat calories, but they're a better option compared to others (via Mayo Clinic). The fat in nuts is the healthy, unsaturated kind. Additionally, the fiber in nuts can help keep you full for longer. Replacing an unhealthy snack with an ounce of nuts can be good for your heart health.

A 2017 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology followed more than 200,000 people for about 28 years, checking in every four years about their diet and health. The people initially didn't have cancer, heart disease, or an incident of stroke. The study found that eating a serving of nuts five or more times a week was connected to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease. Even one serving of nuts per week reduces your cardiovascular disease risk by 6% and your coronary heart disease risk by 13%.

Some nuts have specific benefits

The plant sterols that naturally occur in nuts can lower your cholesterol, according to the Mayo Clinic. A 2018 review in Nutrients found that almonds reduce LDL (the "bad" cholesterol) levels and maintain HDL (the "good" cholesterol) levels. Pistachios can potentially benefit your heart with their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, including gama-tocopherols, phytochemicals, and polyphenols, according to a 2019 review in International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) makes up as much as 14% of the total fat content in walnuts, according to a 2018 review in the Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry. That makes walnuts a significant source of ALA. ALA benefits heart health while also reducing inflammation and improving blood fat composition.

The Mayo Clinic suggests adding four to six servings of nuts a week can give you heart-healthy benefits. Just make sure the nuts are raw or dry-roasted and find some that are unsalted or unsweetened. Remember that nuts are also high in calories, so you don't want to eat too many nuts per day. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, consuming a 185-calorie handful of walnuts each day can lead to a 10-pound weight gain over the course of a year.