Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: A sweet, nutty plan for better cholesterol, blood pressure

Most of the strategies we recommend for controlling cholesterol and blood pressure can't be classified as "fun." Exercising, adopting a more healthful diet, taking medications — all tend to be more work than pleasure. Here's one that's more pleasure than work: eating nuts and chocolate.

Once viewed as little more than treats, nuts and chocolate are poised to join the cornucopia of healthy foods. A gradually growing body of research supports their consumption, in moderation of course, to protect the heart and arteries. The latest studies support this notion.

Nuts. A compelling body of evidence shows that people who eat nuts are less likely to develop heart disease or diabetes than those who don't. One way they may do this is by lowering cholesterol. An analysis of 25 trials showed that eating 2.5 ounces of nuts a day lowers harmful LDL cholesterol by an average of 10 milligrams per deciliter of blood. Nuts lower cholesterol best in people who aren't overweight and those with higher rather than lower cholesterol (Archives of Internal Medicine, May 10, 2010).

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