Here's an interesting suggestion for keeping your heart healthy … pistachios. A new study finds that this tasty nut cuts the risk of cardiovascular disease, in part because they lower cholesterol naturally in the bloodstream.
These delicious nuts are also loaded with antioxidants and healthy fats, as well as being packaged full of vitamins and minerals like selenium and iron. This latest research involved 10 men and 18 women, all healthy eaters, nonsmokers and without health problems, who added pistachios to what they ate each day.
The team found that eating the nuts increased the antioxidant levels in those with high cholesterol.
Earlier work has shown pistachios lowered lipids and lipoproteins (a recognized risk factor for heart disease), and the latest research results other effects that come to the body from enjoying these tasty treats.
The participants in the research ate a diet of 35% total fat, and 11% saturated fat for two weeks. This way of eating was intended to mimic the typical American diet.
Next the researchers used a controlled feeding experiment to test three diets for four weeks each, leaving a two-week break between the eating plans. The control diet was based on the widely known Step 1 Diet, a cholesterol-lowering plan that allows for 25% total fat and 8% saturated fat. The other two diets examined by the team were built on the Step 1 plan – one added 10% of calories from pistachios (about 1.5 ounces), the second added 20% of daily calories (3.0 ounces) from pistachios.
The diets that included pistachios brought higher blood levels of antioxidants than found in the blood of those eating the so-called typical American diet without pistachios.
There were also lower serum oxidized concentrations of LDL cholesterol in the blood of those following a pistachio-enriched diet. Even after the team controlled for the LDL lowering effects, the antioxidants in the pistachios were still found to have an effect on LDL levels in the bloodstream of those eating the highest levels of the nuts.
These findings suggest that a diet including a limited amount of pistachios contributes to lower LDL levels and also brings powerful antioxidants to the body as an extra benefit.
The antioxidants, one of the highest of all nuts, that are naturally part of pistachios are all names you've heard before – lutein, beta-carotene, and gamma-tocopherol. All three help to prevent oxidation of LDL.
Although current studies on antioxidants do not show specific health gains, this is a disappointment to the scientific community that points out that epidemiological studies do suggest benefits.
Pistachios are a cholesterol free snack that's naturally loaded with more than 30 different vitamins, minerals and nutrients in shell. They even have more potassium and phytosterols than other nuts you might eat. So go ahead and enjoy this tasty treat … just two ounces (about 98 nuts) a day of this good-for-you nut may be all it takes to lower cholesterol naturally and reduce your risk of heart problems. But remember any nut, including pistachios, should be eaten in moderate amounts. Even though the fat is considered healthy, it's still fat and adds calories to your daily intake.