Reduce LDL-Cholesterol to Improve Heart Health
One of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease is an elevated LDL-cholesterol. The goal for your LDL-cholesterol can be established with your doctor. It will depend, in part, on any other risk factors that you have. Generally the target is 100 mg/dl or less, with a much lower goal if you have cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
Nutrition research out of Barcelona, Spain and published in the journal Circulation indicates that eating walnuts on a daily basis might have a positive influence on getting harmful artery-clogging LDL-cholesterol down. The randomized, controlled trial lasted for two years. About 30% of the participants were on statins to get their cholesterol down. There were 636 adults, ages 63 to 79 years old, completing the study.
The researchers found, at the study’s conclusion, that eating a handful of walnuts daily:
- Lowered LDL-cholesterol
- Lowered the small dense and harmful LDL particles
- There was no impact on HDL-cholesterol or triglycerides
Walnuts are a powerhouse of good nutrients including:
- Fiber which binds cholesterol and bile acids in the intestinal tract
- Omega-3 fatty acids, especially alpha linoleic acid
- Vitamin B-6
- Minerals including iron, copper and magnesium
Previous nutrition research has found that nuts can be helpful in improving heart health with a lowering of total and LDL-cholesterol. The heart healthy DASH diet recommends eating nuts several times a week for blood pressure reduction. The Mediterranean diet suggests a variety of nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, etc.) on a regular basis.
Consider how you might add nuts to your diet, including heart healthy walnuts. I love chopped walnuts or pecans on my cold or hot cereal in the morning. A handful of nuts and raisins is the perfect daytime snack. Chopped pecans, walnuts, pistachios, and almonds are a tasty topping to all types of vegetable salads. Be creative and begin to include a handful of nuts on a regular basis. Your cardiovascular system will be happy!
About the Author
Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.
By: Rita P. Smith, MS, RD, CDE, Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital