Go Nuts For Heart Health!

19 02 2015

February is American Heart Month, a time to create awareness for, and possibly recognize our own, risks for heart disease. Mixed NutsOf course, there are multiple factors that can increase our risk for this deadly disease, both ones we can change, and ones we can’t.
Things like gender, age, family history, and race are uncontrollable factors. But other risks, such as smoking, uncontrolled blood pressure, high LDL’s, low HDL’s, inactivity, obesity, uncontrolled diabetes, and stress, can be influenced by lifestyle changes.
There are many different ways you can change your lifestyle to help improve these risk factors, and if you are a member of the Weight Management Program, you are already headed in the right direction! Improving your diet, increasing physical activity, losing weight, and learning to manage stress are part of your program, and are what everyone should be doing to improve heart health.
Over the last couple of years, I have seen snacking trends changing. One thing I hear often from my clients is that they are snacking on nuts regularly. Nuts are a great part of a healthy diet, and are good for your heart in so many ways! Let’s take a look at some facts about nuts and heart health from experts at the Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/nuts/ART-20046635

Nuts are packed with heart healthy nutrients such as:
Protein: Nuts are a great source of plant based protein, providing about 6-8grams per ¼ cup.
Unsaturated fats: Nuts contain both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which may help lower LDL cholesterol, and even raise HDL.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Many nuts, such as walnuts, are high in Omega 3’s that can help work to prevent dangerous heart rhythms that can lead to a heart attack.
Fiber: Nuts contain fiber that can help control cholesterol, keep you satisfied so you may eat less, and can play a role in blood sugar management.
Vitamin E: Nuts contain Vitamin E which can help decrease the risk of developing clogged arteries that can lead to coronary artery disease and heart attack.
Plant Sterols: Nuts like almonds, walnuts, pecans, and peanuts (which are actually legumes) contain natural sterols that can help lower cholesterol.
L-Arginine: This can help make artery walls more flexible and less prone to developing blood clots.

Nuts are mostly composed of fats (80%) that are considered heart healthy sources. But, realize that they do contain a significant number of calories as well. If you are trying to lose weight, snacking on nuts is a great way to satisfy hunger in a healthy way, but watch portions. Here is a great visual from “the Kitchn” showing 100 calorie portions of nuts:
http://www.thekitchn.com/a-visual-guide-to-100-calories-of-nuts-snack-tips-from-the-kitchn-201778?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=managed
You can also buy 100 calorie portion controlled packs of nuts if you find it hard to resist extra handfuls!

The best way to have your nuts? Choose them in unsalted, raw form, or even lightly salted and roasted. Be careful of “nut mixes” which often contain salty refined grains, sweetened dried fruit, or candy (think chocolate chips and “yogurt” covered raisins). These are high calorie snacks with lots of added sugars and salt. Try adding raw nuts to oatmeal, salads, Greek yogurt, and fresh berries. For an occasional treat, try these homemade “nutty” recipes:

Homemade Energy Bars from Ellie Krieger: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ellie-krieger/energy-bars-recipe.html?soc=sharingpinterest
Pumpkin Pie Spiced Pecans from Taste of Home Healthy Cooking: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/pumpkin-pie-spiced-pecans
Dark Chocolate Trail Mix Energy Bites from simplytaralynn.com : http://simplytaralynn.com/2013/04/28/2-ingredient-organic-dark-chocolate-trail-mix-energy/
Cathy head shot

Cathy Shaw, RD, LD

RD Program Coordinator

PEIA Weight Management Program

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