It is no surprise that heart health is a priority in the medical community given the following statistics from the CDC:
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States.
- One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease.
- About 655,000 Americans die from heart disease each year—that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
Cutting back on red meat, fried and processed food, and sugar are just a few of the dietary suggestions to maintain heart health. We are also given lifestyle suggestions – like getting more physical exercise on a regular basis – to help keep our weight, blood pressure and blood sugar down to prevent heart disease.
There is another means for achieving heart health that is often overlooked — nuts. A handful of nuts a day can not only provide the essential fats and proteins we need, but also stave off heart disease and diabetes. Over time, regular consumption of nuts has been found to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease.
However, not all nuts are created equal. Nuts grown on trees provide more heart-health benefits than peanuts, which grow underground. Tree nuts include walnuts, almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, pistachios, pecans, macadamias, hazelnuts and pine nuts. Dr. Gang Liu, a research associate at Harvard’s department of nutrition, has done research in this area and has found the benefit of tree nuts:
“Our findings suggest that nut consumption, especially tree nuts, is beneficial for the prevention of cardiovascular disease [heart disease and stroke] and premature deaths among individuals with diabetes,”
With all the benefits tree nuts bring, it is important to look at the effect eating too many nuts can have. While they are packed with the healthy fats and proteins that are proven to increase heart health, eating too many of these heart healthy snacks can have the opposite effect. A diet comprised of too many nuts can result in weight gain due to the fats and oils, and become a negative health factor.
A good rule of thumb when eating nuts is to look to the palm of your hand. Generally, limiting the number of nuts you eat to what fits in the palm of your hand is a good guideline to prevent overeating nuts.
The good news is – it’s ok to go nuts, for your heart’s sake.