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Sharp Health News

Nuts for heart health

Aug. 23, 2017

Nuts for heart health

Are you nuts for nuts but worried about the calories?

The types of nuts you prefer to eat actually doesn’t matter much because most nuts are generally healthy, but portion control is important to keep in mind — and some nuts should be avoided altogether. Claudia Carvalho, a registered dietitian at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, helps explain.

What kinds of nuts are good for heart health?
Nuts are a healthy snack food that pack a big bang per bite in terms of nutrients. Besides being packed with protein, most nuts contain at least some of the heart-healthy substances individuals should try to regularly include in their diet. These include unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, vitamin E, plant sterols and L-arginine.

  • The unsaturated fats found in nuts can help lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol and raise HDL or “good” cholesterol.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent blood clots.
  • L-arginine is an amino acid needed to make a molecule called nitric oxide, which allows the blood vessels to dilate, easing blood flow.

If I had to choose specific kinds of nuts to snack on, I’d pick walnuts, almonds or cashews.

What is a good portion size for nuts?
Studies suggest that consuming about a half cup (a handful) of nuts per day may reduce the risk of developing heart disease by 30 to 50 percent, and may reduce the risk of death from heart disease by approximately 20 percent.

What kinds of nuts are bad for heart health?
Nuts covered in chocolate, sugar or salt are not the best option. Also, eating nuts won’t do much good if you eat them in addition to your usual snacks or meals. At 185 calories per ounce, a handful of walnuts could add 10 pounds or more in a year if you don’t cut back on something else. Instead, eat nuts as a replacement to chips or other less-healthy snacks.

You can also try using nuts instead of meat in main dishes, or as a healthful crunch in salads. Here are some other options for meatless dishes that are packed with protein.

For the news media: To talk with Claudia Carvalho about heart-healthy nuts for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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