According to a new study, one handful of almonds a day may improve your cholesterol. Previous research has shown eating nuts can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by lowering cholesterol. However, eating more nuts also increases calories, so nuts are generally not recommended for people who need to restrict calories. Researchers from Canada, conducted a study to determine if almonds can reduce heart disease risk by lowering cholesterol. The Almond Board of California and the Canadian government funded the study. 30 patients took part in the study who had high cholesterol.
Participants each went on three different diets. For one month, participants ate a full dose of almonds, which represented just under one quarter of their total daily caloric intake or two handfuls. For the next month, participants included half the amount, or one handful, of almonds in their diet. For the third month, participants ate a low-saturated fat, whole-wheat muffin as a daily snack. The muffin had about the same amount of calories, protein and fat as the almonds. During the different phases, researchers measured cholesterol levels, blood pressure and weight.
According to the American Heart Association, a good cholesterol level is under 200. At the beginning of the study, participants had an average cholesterol level of 200 milligrams per deciliter. Researchers found that participants reduced their low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol an average of 4.5 percent with the half portion of almonds and 9.4 percent with the full portion. Cholesterol levels did not significantly drop after the muffin phase.
Researchers say they are "impressed" with the results. They say practitioners should encourage patients to eat almonds as part of a healthy balanced diet as long as they are natural or "dry roasted" without added oils or salts. Researchers say the key is for people to substitute nuts, and not add them, to their diet; otherwise the positive effects could be negated because of the additional calories.