According to research from Sarah K. Gebauer (Pennsylvania State University in University Park) and colleagues, we can now add pistachios to the list of heart healthy snacks – and in this instance, more is better. Results of a small, randomized study reported in the September issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, compared cholesterol effects of adding pistachios to a diet rich in lean meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Twenty-eight people were split into three groups after eating a regular Western diet for two weeks. Baseline cholesterol measurements were then obtained. Next, the study groups were all give lower fat diets. The first group was given one serving of pistachios daily, group two had two servings, and group three continued their healthy diet without pistachio nuts. Ten men and eighteen women were enrolled in the study. Pistachios were delivered as snacks or incorporated into recipes. Immediately following a four week trial comparing the diets, cholesterol measurements were taken again.
The researchers found a dose dependent effect for lowering LDL, and small HDL particles. They also discovered the same for lower levels of total cholesterol/HDL cholesterol (meaning you have more good cholesterol in a defined space), cholesterol/HDL cholesterol (more good cholesterol to bump away fat plaques), and non-HDL cholesterol/HDL cholesterol (we would rather have HDL cholesterol to fight heart disease). HDL (good) cholesterol levels were substantially higher in women after the high-dose pistachio diet than the control diet, but the effect was not seen in the men.
Though the study was small, the authors saw such a significant affect on lower LDL levels, they concluded that eating more pistachios would result in a 9 to 12 percent reduction in heart disease risk - comparable to cholesterol lowering drugs. The low dose group ate from 32 to 63 grams of pistachios daily, the other 63 to 126 grams (in case you want to get started).
Nuts are known for their heart protective value, but this is the first study to look directly at the effect on cholesterol levels of the nutrient dense pistachio. Pistachios contain unsaturated fatty acids, known to be good for a healthy heart. They also are rich in beta carotene, gamma-tocopherol (a member of the vitamin E family), flavonoids, and selenium.
Go Nuts for Heart Health