Nuts are concentrated sources of fat and calories, but they are high in monounsaturated fats which are healthful. A new study from Spain shows that adding nuts to a Mediterranean diet helps to reverse Metabolic syndrome, defined as having three or more of the following: 1) abdominal obesity, 2) high triglycerides, 3) low HDL (good) cholesterol, 4) high blood sugar and 5) high blood pressure. More than 20 percent of North Americans have metabolic syndrome and are at high risk for diabetes. Many of these people will die prematurely, usually from a heart attack.
This study involved 1,200 men and women from 55 to 80 who followed one of three diets for one year. Sixty-one percent of the study group had metabolic syndrome. The first group followed a low-fat diet that reduced all types of fats. The second group ate a Mediterranean diet with at least four tablespoons of olive oil a day. The third group ate the Mediterranean diet with extra nuts. At the end of the study all three groups had improved, but those eating nuts had far fewer of the factors that make up metabolic syndrome. Most did this without restricting calories or losing weight, but they were able to reduce belly fat and lower cholesterol and blood pressure ( Archives of Internal Medicine, December 2008).
Fats are classified by their chemical structure into saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Monounsaturated fats found in olives, avocados and many nuts and seeds help to prevent heart attacks. Before the bad LDL cholesterol can damage arteries, it must first be oxidize in your bloodstream. LDL cholesterol made from monounsaturated fats is highly resistant to oxidation, so it helps to prevent damage to arteries that can lead to a heart attack. The diet I recommend includes plenty of the good fats found in nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, olives, avocados, fish and shell fish.