Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Say "nuts" to chips

Heart Beat

Say "nuts" to chips

The next time you are looking for a snack, reach for some nuts, not chips — and try to chew them thoroughly.

Purdue University researchers asked volunteers to eat a large handful of almonds (two ounces) a few at a time. The volunteers felt more full, and lasted longer before becoming hungry, when they chewed each mouthful 40 times rather than 25 or 10 times (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 2009). Chewing apparently releases healthy fats and other nutrients that would otherwise sail untouched through the digestive tract. This is one of a long line of studies showing that nuts can play a role in good health.

At the National Institute of Food and Nutrition in Warsaw, Poland, researchers asked volunteers to help with a different kind of snack test: eat a five-ounce bag of potato chips every day. After four weeks, markers of inflammation, including oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and C-reactive protein, were significantly higher than they were before the chip marathon (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 2009). The sort of inflammation seen in the volunteers is the type that can promote artery-damaging atherosclerosis. The researchers speculate that one of the bad actors in potato chips may be acrylamide, a substance formed when carbohydrate-rich foods like potatoes are exposed to very high heat.

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