Heart Healthy Diets Include Nuts

From pistachios to macadamias, nuts are a wonderful food

Nuts are a wonderful food—they store easily, travel well, taste great, and add varied textures to many meals, from breakfast foods to mouth-watering desserts.

And to top it off, more and more research suggests that these small powerhouses are working to protect your heart.

Soy Power

Soy nuts, like peanuts, are actually legumes—beans—rather than tree fruit. A soybean becomes a “nut” when it’s soaked in water, drained, and then baked or roasted.

Like tree nuts, soy nuts deserve an honored place at the table. The soy nut has higher amounts of unsaturated fat and isoflavones than other forms of soy protein. Recent research suggests that this may account for the increased benefits that soy nuts appear to have in reducing LDL cholesterol and oxidative stress, and controlling glycemic indices.

Substituting soy nuts for nonsoy protein was also found to have positive outcomes in another study, which showed a reduction in blood pressure and LDL cholesterol in women with high blood pressure.

Go Green

Pistachios may not be the first kind that comes to mind when people think of adding more nuts to their diet, perhaps because they are relative newcomers to our country.

Native to the Middle East, pistachios were introduced to the United States in the late 1920s, when the first seeds were brought over from Iran by a scientist working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Three thousand trees grew from all those seeds, but only one proved useful for propagation.

This female tree was used for grafting other trees that came into maturity in the 1950s, giving birth to the U.S. pistachio industry. Today the U.S. is the biggest supplier of pistachio nuts worldwide! A diet containing two to three ounces of pistachios per day has been shown to improve HDL (healthy) and the total cholesterol ratio and inhibit LDL (lousy) cholesterol oxidation.

Pistachios are a good source of protein, fiber, and gamma-tocopherol, and a source of plant sterols, calcium, potassium, and folic acid.

Nuts Down Under

The macadamia nut is an Australian native brought to Hawaii in the 1880s. Macadamias are unique among nuts because they have 40 to 80 times more palmitoleic acid than all the other common nuts. While the macadamia’s high oil content has made some people wary of the nut in the past, the latest research shows that regular consumption of macadamias may help support heart health.

Macadamias favorably affect the biomarkers of oxidative stress, thrombosis, and inflammation, which are risk factors for coronary artery disease.