Chestnuts roasting on an open fire are a seasonal tradition—and a heart-healthy one at that.
- While holiday treats like eggnog and cookies are loaded with saturated fat, chestnuts and most other nuts contain primarily healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which help reduce cholesterol levels.
- Nuts are an excellent source of vitamin E, which prevents LDL cholesterol from being converted to its oxidized, artery-damaging form.
- Finally, nuts contain arginine, an amino acid that the body converts into nitric oxide. This gaseous molecule protects against the adherence of plaque, prevents blood platelets from sticking together, and relaxes the arteries, helping to control blood pressure.
In fact, a number of studies have documented the protective effects of nuts on cardiovascular health. In one of the earliest studies, members of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church who ate nuts one to four times a week reduced their risk of dying from heart disease by 25 percent.
The Nurses’ Health Study, a 14-year study of more than 84,000 female nurses in the US, found that eating nuts five times a week reduced heart disease risk by 35 percent—a risk reduction similar to the effects of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.
For a healthy holiday snack, grab a handful of raw walnuts, almonds, or roasted chestnuts. But don’t go overboard —nuts are very fat- and calorie-dense.
Now it’s your turn: What’s your favorite type of nut?
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