A small daily snack of almonds increases your “good” HDL cholesterol more than taking a statin drug.
That’s the surprising finding of a study by researchers at Penn State University.
The study followed 48 people at high risk for heart disease. For six weeks, the participants ate an identical diet, with one exception. Half were given an ounce and a half of almonds as a daily snack. The other half had a banana muffin.
Then the subjects switched. For the next six weeks, those who had been eating almonds switched to the muffin, and vice versa.
At the end of each six-week period, researchers did a detailed blood analysis of the participants.
Almonds: Medicine for Your Heart
Scientists found that an almond snack increased HDL by 19%.
Statin drugs typically improve HDL by only about 15%. Plus, they can bring a myriad of side effects…like muscle pain, liver damage, and diabetes. 
A high level of HDL cholesterol is strongly linked to lower heart attack risk. It removes fat from artery walls, preventing blockages.
Professor Penny Kris-Etherton is a distinguished professor of nutrition at Penn State’s College of Health and Human Development. She is author of the study.
She said HDL cholesterol particles are the trash collectors of your cardiovascular system.
“It’s like a garbage bag that slowly gets bigger and more spherical as it gathers cholesterol from cells and tissues before depositing them in the liver to be broken down,” Professor Kris-Etherton said.
“If people incorporate almonds into their diet, they should expect multiple benefits, including ones that can improve heart health.”
Her work was published in the Journal of Nutrition.
The amount of almonds eaten by study subjects (an ounce and a half) is the equivalent of about one large handful or about 35 nuts. Look for organic varieties.
Almond milk is popular right now, but it is doubtful it has the strong heart benefits that whole nuts do. Almond milk lacks fiber and other nutritional components found in nuts.
5 Foods for a Stronger Heart
Almonds aren’t your heart’s only friend. Eat these five other superfoods to keep your cardiovascular system strong:
- Avocados. In one study, women and men who ate one avocado a day for a week significantly reduced their triglycerides. Their levels of HDL increased.
An avocado is about 70% monounsaturated fatty acids. They lower bad cholesterol. Avocados are also rich in antioxidants like vitamin E, which fights oxidative stress.
- Tomatoes. Doctors at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that eating seven or more servings of tomatoes per week cut the risk of cardiovascular disease by 30%.
Tomatoes contain the antioxidants lycopene and vitamin C. Both are great for heart heath. Cooking tomatoes for 30 minutes or longer raises levels of bioavailable lycopene. That means your favorite tomato sauce is even more heart healthy than fresh tomatoes.
- Salmon. It’s loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. They decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure, and reduce blood clotting. Stay away from farm-raised fish, which can be contaminated with chemical additives. Buy wild-caught salmon instead.
- Oatmeal. It contains betaglucan, a soluble fiber. It acts like a sponge, trapping cholesterol-rich bile acids in the intestines and eliminating them. The result is lower “bad” LDL cholesterol.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that a bowl of oatmeal a day cut LDL cholesterol by 3%.
- Chia seeds. These tiny heart helpers lower systolic blood pressure and inflammation. One study found they reduce C-reactive protein (CRP) levels—an important measure of inflammation that can lead to heart disease—by up to 40%. Add chia seeds to salads and smoothies.
You may find that adding almonds and other heart-healthy foods to your diet improve your cholesterol levels to the point that you can discontinue statins. But be sure to consult your doctor first.
Editor’s Note: Research shows the standard heart disease treatments—stents and statin drugs—don’t prevent heart attacks. Discover what does by reading our monthly journal Independent Healing. It’s your best source for reliable, unbiased health information. For more information, go HERE.
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