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August 2004 Issue

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Go Nuts ... Improve Your Health

Published August 2004

Eating nuts can be a good way of lowering total cholesterol and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, says Cynthia Goody, PhD, assistant professor and nutritionist in the College of Allied Health Sciences.

The trick, says Dr. Goody, is not to eat too many of them.

Numerous plant foods lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins (LDL or "bad" cholesterol) and triglycerides (blood fat)-while increasing high-density lipoproteins (HDL or "good" cholesterol).

These foods include oats, garlic, soybeans ... and nuts

Their beneficial effect is probably due in part to their high monounsaturated fat and vitamin E content, says Dr. Goody, but "phytochemicals" could also play a role. These are substances in plants that protect the body's cells from damage that could cause cancer or heart disease.

Research shows a variety of tree nuts, such as walnuts and almonds, significantly reduce total blood cholesterol and LDL when eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Peanuts also contain phytochemicals that may aid in reducing cardiovascular disease.

To enjoy the health benefits of nuts, however, they must be eaten in "moderate" amounts (1-2 oz/day, about the size of four dice). Eat only a small handful of mixed nuts as a snack, sprinkle walnuts on top of spinach salad, or mix almonds with cereal and berries.

So go nuts ... but don't go crazy, Dr. Goody warns. A cup of nuts, she points out, is equal in calories to 64 cups of popcorn!

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