A researcher from the Harvard School of Public Health noted that results from a National Institutes of Health-funded study, looking at the diet of over 200,000 adults for 32 years, show nuts in the diet are associated with a lower risk for heart disease.

Get nutty over nuts

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It may seem nutty to focus on nuts for our health, but there are so many good studies that point out the positive health properties of nuts. A researcher from the Harvard School of Public Health noted that results from a National Institutes of Health-funded study, looking at the diet of over 200,000 adults for 32 years, show nuts in the diet are associated with a lower risk for heart disease. And this is great news, because heart disease continues to be the number one killer in this country.

What protective nutrients in nuts might prevent heart disease?

  • Potassium and  magnesium to control high blood pressure
  • Healthy oils to reduce cholesterol production in the liver
  • Dietary fiber to bind cholesterol in the intestines
  • Antioxidants to reduce inflammation in the arteries             

Fortunately there are so many nuts to choose from including:

  • Cashews
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Walnuts

Add nuts to:

  • Snacks
  • Hot and cold cereals
  • Salads
  • Stir-fry
  • Smoothies
  • Grain dishes like rice and barley

Nuts do have protein and can be a substitute for animal protein; for example, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich vs deli meat sandwich or almond butter and honey on a whole-grain tortilla. For many health reasons, nuts can be a nifty addition to your recipes. You will find them in the snack section of the grocery store, but be careful because many of these have been salted. Nuts in the baking section are usually plain, unsalted and unroasted. Make your own trail mix with assorted nuts, wheat Chex cereal and dried fruit. Sprinkle slivered almonds on your tossed salads. Chopped walnuts are delicious in hot oatmeal. And peanuts or cashews are great when added to stir fries.

Recipes to try:

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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.