By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
Researchers in Pakistan have found that eating a few almonds on a regular basis can raise the level of HDL cholesterol in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD).
HDL is short for high density lipoprotein. It’s a form of cholesterol that serves the body as a lipid garbage truck, picking up oxidized LDL and excess cholesterol in the bloodstream, and carrying them back to the liver for processing into steroid hormones and bile acids. HDL is thus part of the body’s system of “checks and balances,” and specifically reduces the potential of LDL cholesterol to participate in the arterial inflammation process that leads to cardiovascular disease.
In a 2015 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, the researchers said that almond consumption raised the HDL level of patients with low HDL levels by a significant 15 percent over a three month period.
The researchers added that other indicators and ratios of lipid abnormalities were also improved. In the study, a hundred participants ate a small portion of almonds (10 grams, or about 8 almonds) daily before breakfast. To enhance the digestibility of the nuts, the almonds were soaked overnight, and then the skin removed, before eating.
My Viewpoint: Even despite aggressive lowering of LDL cholesterol, heart patients continue to be at significant risk. Having low HDL (an issue I have seen many times in patients over the years), is definitely a bigger risk factor. HDL needs more attention and if it can be raised safely, and through diet, that’s a huge plus.
What This Means to You: I love nuts and seeds. Despite the fact that they are really compact purveyors of healthy fats, fiber, protein, and antioxidants, they are commonly overlooked as healthy foods. The Romans did see their value and apparently showered them on newlyweds to enhance fertility, according to the California Almond Board. California is the world’s largest producing region for almonds.
Recommendation: Add a handful of almonds to your cereal or salads daily to help support heart health. These nuts also make great snacks that are simple and nourishing. Soak your almonds, as they did in this study, for easier breakdown.
- Jamshed H, et al. Dietary Almonds Increase Serum HDL Cholesterol in Coronary Artery Disease Patients in a Randomized Controlled Trial. J Nutr. 2015.
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