Eating nuts promotes cardiovascular health

BOSTON, MA — Researchers from Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health have examined the effect of eating nuts on cardiovascular health, reports the Harvard Men's Health Watch. "Their work shows that nuts really are healthy, especially for men at risk for heart disease," says Dr. Harvey B. Simon, editor.

Studies show that healthy men, and those who have already suffered a heart attack, can reduce cardiovascular risk by eating nuts regularly, reports the Harvard Men's Health Watch. Doctors theorize that:

  • nuts may help lower cholesterol, partly by replacing less healthy foods in the diet
  • nuts contain mono- and polyunsaturated fats known to benefit the heart
  • the omega-3 fats found in walnuts may protect against irregular heart rhythms
  • nuts are rich in arginine, a substance that may improve blood vessel function
  • other nutrients in nuts (such as fiber and vitamin E) may also help lower cardiovascular risk.

Nuts are nutritional powerhouses, but high in calories. The Harvard Men's Health Watch cautions that if you add nuts to your diet, you'll want to cut back on something else. Substitute nuts for chips or cookies, and avoid nuts that are fried in oil or loaded with salt. As little as two ounces of nuts a week appears to help lower heart disease risk. Healthful choices include:

  • almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • cashews
  • filberts
  • peanuts
  • pistachios
  • walnuts

By themselves, nuts seem to produce modest declines in cholesterol, but when they are combined with other healthful foods, the results can be spectacular. "Nuts may not be the key to cardiovascular health, but adding nuts to a balanced, healthful diet can take you one step away from heart disease," says Dr. Simon.

Also in this issue:

  • When Viagra won't do: Other options for treating erectile dysfunction
  • New screening guidelines for abdominal aortic aneurysm
To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »