A Nut to Lower Cholesterol

If you’re looking to lower your cholesterol, consider eating a serving of pecans every day.  According to a new study published in The Journal of Nutrition, this can dramatically improve your cholesterol levels.

The study was conducted by the University of Georgia and involved 52 adults between the ages of 30 and 75 who were at higher risk of cardiovascular disease with high cholesterol or a BMI of 28kg/m2 or more.  They were randomly divided into three groups, with the first group adding 68 grams (470 calories) of pecans to their current diet, the second group substituting 68 g of pecans for 470 calories out of their current diet, and a control group.  After 8 weeks there was a significant reduction of 5% in total cholesterol, and 6 – 9% in LDL (bad) cholesterol in the two pecan groups, with  similar numbers for those who added pecans as well as those who substituted them.

Some of the participants in the study “went from having high cholesterol at the start of the study to no longer being in that category after the intervention”, according to Jamie Cooper, one of the researchers.  “The addition of pecans to the diet not only produced a greater and more consistent reduction in total cholesterol and LDL compared to many other lifestyle interventions, but may also be a more sustainable approach for long-term health.”  A previous analysis of 51 exercise interventions resulted in an average reduction of only 1% in total cholesterol and 5% in LDL.

The results are in line with the established research showing that three nuts are cardioprotective.  They’re high in healthy fats as well as fiber, both of which help lower cholesterol.  In addition to adding pecans to your diet, follow these guidelines to improve your cholesterol levels.

  1. It’s not necessary to worry about dietary cholesterol or to try to cut out all fat from your diet.  The cholesterol in food doesn’t impact your cholesterol levels very much because when you eat cholesterol, your body produces less of it to balance it out.  What you need to focus on is cutting out or limiting unhealthy fats like trans fats and saturated fats, both of which have been shown to increase LDL and decrease HDL (good) cholesterol.  Instead, eat mono- and poly-unsaturated fats like avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds like chia and flax, and fatty fish like salmon and mackerel.
  2. Make sure you get plenty of fiber, which only comes from plant-based foods, including oatmeal, barley, pears, berries, apples, bananas, kale, spinach, broccoli, lentils, and beans.  Fiber binds to cholesterol so it can be excreted from your body instead of going to your liver.
  3. Exercise regularly, including aerobic and resistance exercises.  A minimum of 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, will help decrease LDL and increase HDL.
  4. Drink moderately and don’t smoke.

Improve your cholesterol and your overall health by eating a mostly plant-based diet that includes around 68 g or 2/3 cup of pecans per day.

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