‘I’m a cardiologist and this is the nut I eat almost every day for heart health’

By | April 4, 2024

Nuts in bowls

There are so many factors that play a role when it comes to the risk of cardiovascular disease. Some, like genetics or age, are beyond your control. But people have more control over what they put in their mouths – and nutrition matters when it comes to heart-healthy living.

“The food we eat can have an impact on developing several risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes,” explains Dr. Kevin Rabii, DO, FACC, a cardiologist at Memorial Hermann. “By understanding which foods provide the most benefits and cause the least harm, we can keep our cardiovascular system in the best shape possible.”

‘Consume a low-fat diet’ is the standard advice. That would mean that nuts – which contain high levels of unsaturated fatty acids – are off the table (or at least not as often). Dr. However, Rabii recommends consuming high-fat foods such as nuts as part of a heart-healthy diet.

“It’s important to remember that fats are an essential part of our body,” says Dr. Rabii. “However, not all fats are created equally. Nuts contain higher levels of unsaturated fatty acids, which can have protective effects on our cardiovascular system and reduce bad cholesterol levels.”

The American Heart Association recommends eating foods containing monounsaturated fats, such as nuts, for good health. What is a good nut for heart health? Dr. Rabii served the one he consumes almost daily.

Related: ‘I’m a cardiologist – this is the afternoon snack I eat almost every day’

A cardiologist’s favorite note

Dr. Rabii loves almonds so much that he always has a jar on hand. “I enjoy almonds because they are an easy, healthy and delicious snack,” he says. “I try to keep a small container of some almonds in the car or at work for when I’m hungry. There’s no prep involved and it can keep you from opting for unhealthier snacks.”

Almonds are delicious on their own. However, they are so versatile that they can be consumed at any time of the day. Think yogurt parfaits for breakfast and stir-fries or salads for lunch or dinner. Regardless of when and how you consume almonds, you get a number of essential nutrients.

“While there are many nuts that are heart-healthy, almonds are considered one of the better choices,” says Dr. Rabii. “They have high levels of protein, beneficial fats and other nutrients, including vitamin E, B vitamins, magnesium and calcium.”

Related: This Is the Best Diet for Heart Health, According to Cardiologists

One ounce of almonds contains approximately:

  • 164 calories

  • 6 grams of protein

  • 9 grams of unsaturated fats

  • 7 milligrams of vitamin E

  • 77 milligrams of magnesium

  • 76 milligrams of calcium

A 2018 review found that eating whole almonds could be a safe, practical strategy for managing dyslipidemia, a clinical term for elevated cholesterol levels that put a person at risk for clogged arteries, heart attacks and stroke. An analysis published in 2020 found that consuming 42.5 grams of almonds (about a handful or two) per day could help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in the short term – and perhaps even the long term. A 2019 systemic review and meta-analysis found that almond consumption was associated with significantly lower cholesterol levels.

Related: 10 Healthiest Nuts, According to Registered Dietitians

The No. 1 rule of consuming nuts for heart health

We have Dr. Asked Rabii to recommend one note to avoid. He didn’t bite. What he did say was that portion control was key, regardless of the nut of choice – even his favorite, almonds.

“I wouldn’t say there’s a specific nut to avoid, but I would keep portion control in mind,” says Dr. Rabii. “Nuts are high in calories and it’s easy to eat too many of them. This is especially true when it comes to nut butters like peanut butter.”

The nutrition facts on the back let you know what is considered a serving size. Consider pre-portioned versions if you have trouble putting down a container of your favorite nuts (totally understandable).

Nuts such as almonds can also go the heart-unfriendly route. “You should also pay attention to how the nuts are prepared,” explains Dr. Rabii out. “The roasting process can often add unhealthy processed oils, and seasoning can add large amounts of salt or sugar. In general, raw or dry-roasted nuts without a sugary or salty taste are the best choice for heart health.”

Again, labels and nutrition facts are your best friends when choosing nuts (and any food, really). A registered dietitian can help you choose heart-healthy foods, including decoding nutrition labels.

Next: The only diet that cardiologists say will actually lower your risk of heart attack

Sources

  • Dr. Kevin Rabii, DO, FACC, a cardiologist at Memorial Hermann

  • Monounsaturated fats. American Heart Association.

  • Tonsils and cardiovascular health: an overview. Nutrients.

  • Daily almond consumption in the prevention of cardiovascular disease via LDL-C change in the US population: a cost-effectiveness analysis. BMC Public Health.

  • Almond consumption and risk factors for cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Advanced Nutrients.

  • Nuts, Almonds. USDA.

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