Q: I am trying to change the way I eat so I can lower my blood pressure and cholesterol naturally, it’s not clear to me whether nuts are a good snack to add to my eating plan.
A: First, in general, it is important to eat healthy and to avoid foods that will further aggravate high blood pressure and cholesterol. Nuts are good to eat on a daily basis as a snack to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and to prevent heart disease. The fact that nuts serve as a good source of potassium, magnesium, fiber and healthy fats, make them a part of a healthy diet for your heart. The DASH diet – designed to help reduce high blood pressure – encourages people to increase their intake of nuts within moderation since they also contain saturated or unhealthy fats, which in excess can have the opposite affect and increase the risk of heart disease. The best way to enjoy the benefits of eating nuts, is to restrict yourself to just eating them daily as a healthy snack.
So what are the best nuts to snack on?
Certain types of nuts, such as nuts high in omega-3 fatty acids, are more of a benefit in lowering blood pressure than others. Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts and pistachio nuts all improve omega-3 fatty acid levels, with walnuts providing the most omega-3 fatty acids. Eating around 1.5 oz. of nuts per day — no more than a handful or about 8 nuts per day — is enough to provide the necessary health benefits.
Nuts high in omega-3 fatty acids help lower blood pressure by keeping the blood vessels pliable and protecting the nervous system. Nuts high in omega-3 fatty acids also help lower cholesterol levels. Cholesterol buildup on the interior walls of blood vessels can narrow the blood vessels, increasing the workload of the heart, which raises blood pressure.When buying walnuts or any type of nuts, make sure to purchase low-sodium nuts, since too much salt can increase high blood pressure. Stay away from nut mixes or trail mixes that are often loaded with sugar and unhealthy fat.