Almonds beat bad cholesterol, boost the good stuff

By Greg Hamilton • Published: December 4th, 2017
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It’s been fairly well-established that almonds are good for your heart health, particularly when it comes to lowering levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol. But not as much is known about how the tasty nuts affect HDL, the good cholesterol. Turns out, almonds not only increase the levels of the good stuff, they also help the healthy cholesterol function better.

For those who may be confused about how LDL and HDL differ, HDL works by cruising slowly through cells and tissues and gathering the bad cholesterol. It then carries the LDL to the liver to be broken down then sent out of the body.

Scientists at Penn State University wanted to know more about how almonds impacted HDL levels and function. They set up a study in which men and women with elevated LDL cholesterol participated in two six-week diet periods. Their diets were identical except for the daily snack. On the almond diet, participants received about a handful of almonds a day. During the control period, they received a banana muffin instead.

The researchers found that compared to the control diet, the almond diet increased HDL by 19 percent. Also, the almond diet improved HDL function by 6.4 percent. Their findings were published in the Journal of Nutrition.

Interestingly, the greatest effect was seen in people with normal weight. Those participants who were overweight or obese saw minimal changes, leading the researchers to recommend more study in this area.

While almonds will not eliminate the risk of heart disease, they are a smart choice for a healthy snack, the researchers said. In addition to their heart-healthy benefits, almonds also provide a dose of good fats, vitamin E and fiber.