(HealthNewsDigest.com) – Time moves on, research evolves and medical advice changes as new evidence is presented. Eggs and nuts were once considered a no-no on a heart healthy diet are now applauded as healthy choices. Why the change?
When the cholesterol in food was considered one of the drivers of serum cholesterol, eggs high in cholesterol were put on the do-not-eat-often list. Despite their good taste, convenience, low cost and excellent nutrition, many people stopped eating eggs altogether or limited the amount they ate. Over 30 years of cholesterol research has shown that eating eggs does not increase your risk for heart disease or stroke. A healthy adult can enjoy one to two eggs a day without concern.
In 2016, the long-standing limit on daily cholesterol intake was lifted with the release of 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The decision was based on years of research suggesting the connection between dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol values was minimal and did not pose a major risk for either heart disease or stroke. In fact, the USDA recently released more accurate cholesterol data on eggs and found a large egg has 185 milligrams of cholesterol (down from 215) and 64% more vitamin D. Why did the values change? Once again, science evolved and analysis methods became more precise and accurate.
How can you be confident that this current research recommendation can be relied on? In January 2020 researchers from McMaster University in Canada, published the results of their exhaustive work in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. They looked at over 177,000 people in 50 countries, 31,000 of whom had heart disease. They found no association between eating eggs and an increase in blood cholesterol. They concluded that moderate egg consumption, which they defined as one egg a day, did not increase the risk for heart disease or death even for people with a history of heart disease or diabetes. This is a very large study, with people of varying health status, with differing cultural backgrounds which makes the results universal and reliable.
OK, so now you are comfortable about eating egg, but why have nuts become dietary darlings? Our advice on fat has become more sophisticated and nuanced. In the past, the message was low fat – the lower the better. Today, scientists understand that it is more important that you choose the right type of fat than worry about the quantity of fat you eat. Too much saturated (animal) fat still puts you at risk for heart disease. Though all nuts are high in fat, they contain very little saturated fat.
Evolving evidence continues to show that including a reasonable amount of nuts in your diet is heart healthy. Eating almonds and walnuts is particularly heart healthy. A study out of Penn State University showed that eating almonds boosted a beneficial type of HDL cholesterol and helped to remove harmful cholesterol from the body. Research on walnuts has shown that they aid in in lowering of LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol which creates a more positive heart-healthy ratio. Walnuts also help to lower blood pressure and inflammation and reduce plaque formation. They are the only nut to be a significant source of heart-healthy, omega-3 fatty acids. Research has even shown that eating a small serving of nuts, as little as 10 walnuts, at an otherwise high fat meal can be cardio-protective, preventing inflammation and improving artery elasticity. Maybe we should be encouraging a side of walnuts to go with every double-stack cheeseburger.
What would be considered a moderate intake of nuts each day? An ounce of nuts or 2 tablespoons of nut butter is a serving. Twenty-four almonds or 14 walnut halves equals one ounce. Keep it simple. Choose dry roasted and unsalted more often than oil roasted, salted, sugared or chocolate coated nuts. And, when you reach for nuts — eat a handful not a canful.
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Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and the author of 30 books.
Available as eBooks from iTunes and Kindle/Amazon:
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