Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart healthDiscover how walnuts, almonds and other nuts can help lower cholesterol when eaten as part of a balanced diet.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Eating nuts as part of a healthy diet may be good for the heart. Nuts contain unsaturated fatty acids and other nutrients. And they’re a great snack food. They are inexpensive, easy to store and easy to pack when you’re on the go.
One drawback to nuts is that some may be high in calories. So it’s important to limit portions. But choosing nuts instead of a less healthy snack may help you stick to a heart-healthy diet.
How might nuts help your heart?
Research has found that frequently eating nuts lowers levels of inflammation related to heart disease and diabetes.
Regularly eating a healthy diet that includes nuts may:
Improve artery health.
Reduce inflammation related to heart disease.
Decrease the risk of blood clots, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Lower the risk of high blood pressure.
Lower the risk of early death due to heart disease.
Lower unhealthy cholesterol levels, specifically triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein, also called LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
What might make nuts heart healthy?
Nuts are a good source of protein. Most nuts also contain at least some of these heart-healthy substances:
Unsaturated fats. It’s not entirely clear why, but it’s thought that the “good” fats in nuts — both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats — lower bad cholesterol levels.
Omega-3 fatty acids. Many nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are healthy fatty acids. They may reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Fiber. All nuts contain fiber, which helps lower cholesterol. Fiber also makes you feel full, so you eat less.
Plant sterols. Some nuts contain plant sterols, a substance that can help lower cholesterol. Plant sterols are often added to products such as margarine and orange juice for additional health benefits, but sterols occur naturally in nuts.
L-arginine. Nuts are also a source of L-arginine. Some research suggests that L-arginine may lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol and improve overall blood vessel health.
What’s a healthy serving of nuts?
Nuts contain fat. Even though most of it is healthy fat, the calories can still add up. That’s why you should eat nuts in moderation.
Adults should aim to eat about 4 to 6 servings of unsalted nuts a week as part of a healthy diet. Serving recommendations for kids vary, depending on age. Ask your pediatrician how many servings of nuts are OK for your child.
Choose raw or dry-roasted nuts rather than nuts cooked in oil. One serving is a small handful (1.5 ounces) of whole nuts or 2 tablespoons of nut butter.
Does it matter what kind of nuts you eat?
Most nuts appear to be generally healthy. But some may have more heart-healthy nutrients than others. For example, walnuts contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
Almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts and pecans also appear to be quite heart healthy. So are peanuts — though they are technically not a nut, but a legume, like beans.
It’s best to choose unsalted or unsweetened nuts. Adding salt or sugar to nuts may cancel out their heart-healthy benefits.
Here’s some nutrition information on common types of nuts. All calorie and fat content measurements are for 1 ounce, or 28.4 grams (g), of unsalted nuts.
Type of nut
Brazil nuts, raw
Hazelnuts (filberts), dry-roasted
Hazelnuts (filberts), raw
Macadamia nuts, dry-roasted
Macadamia nuts, raw
How about nut oils? Are they healthy, too?
Nut oils also are a good source of healthy nutrients, but they lack the fiber found in whole nuts. Walnut oil is the highest in omega-3s.
Consider using nut oils in homemade salad dressing or in cooking. When cooking with nut oils, remember that they respond differently to heat than do vegetable oils. Nut oils can become bitter if overheated. Use nut oils in moderation, as they are high in fat and calories.
From Mayo Clinic to your inbox
Sign up for free and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips, current health topics, and expertise on managing health. Click here for an email preview.
To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which
information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with
other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could
include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected
health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health
information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of
privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on
the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.
Nov. 15, 2023
Mohammadifard N, et al. Longitudinal association of nut consumption and the risk of cardiovascular events: A prospective cohort study in the Eastern Mediterranean region. Frontiers in Nutrition. 2021; doi:10.3389/fnut.2020.610467.
Marcadenti A, et al. Effects of a Brazilian cardioprotective diet and nuts on cardiometabolic parameters after myocardial infarction: Study protocol for a randomized controlled clinical trial. Trials. 2021; doi:10.1186/s13063-021-05494-0.
L-arginine. Natural Medicines. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com. Accessed June 15, 2022.
Go nuts (but just a little!). American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/go-nuts-but-just-a-little. Accessed June 15, 2022.
2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov. Accessed June 15, 2022.
Yu Z, et al. Associations between nut consumption and inflammatory biomarkers. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016; doi:10.3945/ajcn.116.134205.
Lorenzon Dos Santos J, et al. Oxidative stress biomarkers, nut-related antioxidants, and cardiovascular disease. Nutrients. 2020; doi:10.3390/nu12030682.
Healthy diet (adult). AskMayoExpert. Mayo Clinic; 2022.
English walnut. Natural Medicines. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com. Accessed June 15, 2022.
Tangney CC, et al. Lipid lowering with diet or dietary supplements. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed June 15, 2022.
Chareonrungrueangchai K, et al. Dietary factors and risks of cardiovascular diseases: An umbrella review. Nutrients. 2021; doi:10.3390/nu12041088.
Parilli-Moser I, et al. Effect of peanut consumption on cardiovascular risk factors: A randomized clinical trial and meta-analysis. Frontiers in Nutrition. 2022; doi:10.3389/fnut.2022.853378.
Estruch R, et al. Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts. New England Journal of Medicine. 2018; doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1800389.
Alasalvar C, et al. Bioactives and health benefits of nuts and dried fruits. Food Chemistry. 2020; doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2020.126192.
Healthy cooking oils. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/healthy-cooking-oils. Accessed June 15, 2022.
Liu G, et al. Nut consumption in relation to cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality among patients with diabetes mellitus. Circulation Research. 2019; doi:10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.118.314316.
FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov. Accessed Oct. 1, 2019.
Becerra-Tomás N, et al. Nut consumption and incidence of cardiovascular diseases and cardiovascular disease mortality: A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Nutrition Reviews. 2019; doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuz042.
Picking healthy proteins. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/meat-poultry-and-fish-picking-healthy-proteins. Accessed June 20, 2022.
See more In-depth
Source : Mayo Clinic