Cholesterol, a waxy substance naturally found in your body, plays an important role in keeping the cells functioning. You can have too much of a good thing, however. When you eat foods high in saturated fat, additional forms of cholesterol called LDL cholesterol are added to the mix. This raises the levels of cholesterol in your blood.
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Too much cholesterol in your blood clogs up your arteries, a process that eventually starves the heart of oxygen and blood, the primary cause of heart disease.
To ward off this deadly sequence of events, it is therefore imperative to opt for foods low in saturated fat.
Nuts are good sources of unsaturated fats and lower in saturated fats, a mix which can help to keep your cholesterol in check.
“They contain fibre which can help block some cholesterol being absorbed into the bloodstream from the gut,” explains Heart UK, the cholesterol charity.
Plus, as the health site notes, nuts are a rich source of protein, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, natural plant sterols and other plant nutrients which help keep your body healthy by combating cholesterol.
An added benefit of eating nuts is that they’re also filling, so you’re less likely to snack on other things, it says.
This is beneficial on two fronts.
The fuller you are, the less likely you are to reach for unhealthy snacks high in saturated fat, which in turn could encourage weight gain – another factor for high cholesterol and heart disease.
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There is a mountain of evidence that supports the cholesterol-lowering benefits of eating nuts.
In an analysis of 25 studies, eating two to three servings of nuts per day decreased LDL cholesterol by an average of 10.2 mg/d.
Another study found that eating a daily serving of nuts was linked to a 28 percent lower risk of both fatal and nonfatal heart disease.
To reap the optimal benefits, you should enjoy nuts as part of a Mediterranean diet.
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The Mediterranean diet is high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish and unsaturated fats such as olive oil.
Numerous studies have found that the Mediterranean diet is associated with reduced risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including lowering cholesterol levels.
The results of one study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the Mediterranean diet plus olive oil or nuts reduced risk for heart events by roughly 30 percent compared to a low-fat diet.
Other ways to lower high cholesterol
An active lifestyle can also help lower your cholesterol level.
“Activities can range from walking and cycling to more vigorous exercise, such as running and energetic dancing,” explains the NHS.
Doing 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week can improve your cholesterol levels, advises the health body.
Moderate aerobic activity means you’re working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat.
According to the NHS, one way to tell whether you’re exercising at a moderate intensity is if you can still talk but cannot sing the words to a song.
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