We all know the routine – eat three balanced meals a day and if you’re hungry in between, snack on fresh fruit or vegetables. But nuts are another snack option that will curb your hunger while helping your heart.
They’re Full of Goodness
Not only are nuts delicious, but they’re full of things that are good for your body. Research has shown that nuts are a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which contain a high amount of good polyunsaturated fats. Omega-3 fats are good for regulating blood pressure (and lowering your risk of heart disease as a byproduct).
Nuts are also an excellent source of fiber, which is good for your blood pressure and helps lower cholesterol.
The antioxidants found in nuts, like vitamin E, can help prevent plaque from forming, which is good news because plaque can lead to heart disease.
Eating nuts can also provide you with a source of L-arginine. This is a substance researchers believe can aid in improving the health of the walls in your arteries, making them more flexible and also less prone to blood clots.
What to Avoid
Unless you’re allergic to nuts, there aren’t many you should avoid in their raw or dry roasted form. Pine nuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts – they all have about the same amount of calories and fat. There are a few types of nuts – more specifically almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts and peanuts – that seem to be especially heart healthy.
Just because nuts are good for your heart doesn’t mean you can eat them by the bowlful every day, however. They are high in calories and fat and are good for you in moderation only. Steer clear of nuts covered in chocolate, yogurt, salted or “honey roasted,” which will only cancel out the heart-healthy benefits. Nuts in their raw form are good on their own anyway!
Recipes for Success
If you’re looking to incorporate nuts into your diet, you’re not limited to eating a small handful. There are healthy nut recipes all over the internet that will provide you with delicious, heart-healthy meals or snacks.
Try a trail mix with several different kinds of your favorite nuts and dried, unsweetened fruits.
Instead of breading your chicken with breadcrumbs and frying it, try breading it with crushed almonds and baking it.
Look for a nut-centered recipe for energy breakfast bites, or oatmeal with almonds – these not only add heart-healthy food to your diet, but allow you to make them ahead of time, which can make for a much easier day for you when you have a busy week.
Dr. Mehreen Fatima is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Sienna Plantation Clinic in Missouri City. Her clinical interests include preventive healthcare, chronic disease management and women’s health.