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The scariest thing about having a high cholesterol level is that you don’t even know you have it since it does not show any symptoms.
But what’s more horrifying is the fact that having a high cholesterol level means you have a higher chance of getting a stroke, a heart attack or developing heart diseases, which is the leading cause of death on the planet, according to the World Health Organization.
In the United States alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that a person would die from heart disease every 37 seconds.
Other disorders that you may get if you have high cholesterol is high blood pressure. Diabetes is also associated with high cholesterol.
While genetic factors do play a crucial role in increasing your risk of having high cholesterol, it is also a result of your unhealthy lifestyle and dietary choices.
The good news is that you can improve your cholesterol levels and maintain them at a healthy range.
Aside from getting yourself tested for cholesterol every four to six years, the CDC recommends getting enough physical activities per week and making healthy food choices.
Even though nuts are calorie-dense, interestingly, studies do not support the association between nuts consumption and weight gain.
In fact, research proposed the link between nuts intake with less weight gain and a reduced risk of obesity, perhaps due to their fiber and healthy fat content, which boost satiety and fullness.
Findings also showed the role of nuts in decreasing cholesterol.
The question is, what are the best nuts to lower cholesterol?
In this post, I’ve compiled seven of the best nuts to reduce cholesterol, specifically the best nuts for lowering LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), according to research.
Interesting fact: 1% reduction of total and LDL cholesterol levels decreases the incidence of coronary heart disease by 1.5%.
Cholesterol-lowering Nuts #1: Almonds
Almonds (Prunus amigdalis) are the world’s most popular types of edible tree nuts.
In Western nations, they are typically consumed as snacks, a part of desserts or meals.
You may find almonds in different commercial forms, including roasted almonds, almond milk, almond butter, and almond flour.
Almonds are highly nutritious, packed with plenty of vitamins, minerals, proteins, healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants.
- 164 kcal of calorie
- 6 grams of protein
- 6.11 grams of carbs
- 3.5 grams of total dietary fiber
- 14.2 grams of total lipid
- 7.27 milligrams of vitamin E (~37% of %DV)
- 76.5 milligrams of magnesium (~19% of %DV)
- 136 milligrams of phosphorus (~14% of %DV)
Almonds also contain a decent amount of vitamin B2, calcium, copper, and phytonutrients, such as flavonoids and phenolic acids, which are great antioxidants.
Studies have also shown that almonds are effective in lowering LDL cholesterol.
A 16-week study involving 65 subjects with prediabetes discovered that an almond-enriched diet containing 20% of calories from almonds help reduce LDL cholesterol levels by an average of 12 mg per dL.
Another study reported that consuming about 1.5 oz of almonds every day lowers LDL cholesterol levels up to 5.3 mg per dL while maintaining the level of good cholesterol. Subjects also lose belly fat and leg fat, despite no loss in total body weight.
A 2015 randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Nutrition found that the consumption of a low dose of almonds (about 10 grams per day) before breakfast helps increase the level of good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) in patients with coronary artery disease.
Interesting fact: 1% increase in HDL cholesterol level reduces coronary events by up to 2% to 3%.
Lowering LDL cholesterol is not the only thing almonds can do to your blood cholesterol.
Almonds can also prevent the harmful oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which plays a critical role in the development of the cardiovascular disease.
This property may even be stronger when mixed with other antioxidants like vitamin E.
A clinical trial conducted by researchers from St Michael’s Hospital in Canada reported that snacking on almonds for a month helps reduce up to 14% of oxidized LDL cholesterol levels, which results in a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease over time.
Research also shows that almonds provide other health benefits:
- Magnesium-rich almonds help lower blood sugar and blood pressure levels
- Reduce hunger and decrease total calorie intake
- May be effective for weight loss
- Reduce the risk of certain cancer, such as breast cancer
Food tips: Eating tree nuts, such as almonds, twice or thrice per week, may help lower the risk of total heart disease by 13% and the risk of coronary heart disease by 15%. (Journal of the American College of Cardiology).
Cholesterol-lowering Nuts #2: Walnuts
Similar to almonds, walnuts (Juglans regia) comes from the family of tree nuts.
Commercially, walnuts are commonly available as raw or roasted walnuts and in the form of walnut oil.
Of all edible plants, walnuts are a whole food with the highest plant omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is not present in any other nuts.
The omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that help enhance blood lipids and other risk factors of heart disease.
- 185 kcal of calorie
- 4.32 grams of protein
- 3.89 grams of carbs
- 1.9 grams of total dietary fiber
- 18.5 grams of total lipid
- 0.4 milligrams of copper (~22% of %DV)
- 1 milligram of manganese (~48% of %DV)
- 44.2 milligrams of magnesium (~11% of %DV)
- 96.9 milligrams of phosphorus (~10% of %DV)
Walnuts also contain a decent amount of folate, vitamin C, E, and K, as well as other minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, and selenium.
Multiple studies have found that walnut consumption can significantly lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol while elevating good cholesterol levels.
One short-term trial study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition proposed that a walnut-enriched diet considerably reduces total and LDL cholesterol.
Another randomized controlled trial released in a similar journal also found that a healthy diet consisting of walnuts lowered the serum concentration of both total and LDL cholesterol.
In one study conducted by researchers from the Loma Linda University in California, 18 healthy men between the age of 21 and 43 years old were fed with two mixed natural diets in the course of 8-week.
A cholesterol-lowering diet became the reference diet, while the other diet is called a walnut diet, where twenty percent of its calories were derived from walnuts.
The compositions of these two diets are almost identical in terms of total lipids, carbs, protein, and fiber.
The study found that including a moderate quantity of walnuts into a cholesterol-lowering diet while maintaining the total fat and calorie consumption reduces the total serum cholesterol.
The diet also positively impacts the lipoprotein profile of regular men.
Moreover, a 2017 study published in the Journal of Nutrients showed that consuming 43 grams of walnuts for eight weeks positively changes blood lipids by lowering triglycerides, as well the total, LDL, and non-HDL cholesterol levels.
Also, researchers from Australia who look into the effects of walnuts on blood lipid profiles of patients with type II diabetes found that on average, patients who consume walnuts had a drop of up to 10% in their bad cholesterol level and a rise in their good cholesterol.
In addition to being one of the best nuts for lowering LDL cholesterol, other proven health benefits of walnuts include:
- Excellent source of antioxidants which help fight oxidative damage
- Reduce inflammation
- Promote a healthy tummy
- Reduce the risk of certain cancers, such as breast and colorectal cancers
- Lower the risk of cardiovascular disease
- Lower blood pressure
- Improve blood sugar level and lower risk of type 2 diabetes
- Reduce hunger and support weight management
- Promote healthy brain function
- Support healthy sperm
Cholesterol-lowering Nuts #3: Cashew
Native of North-East Brazil, cashews (Anacardium occidentale) are another one of the best nuts for lowering LDL cholesterol.
For hundreds of years, edible cashew kernels have been consumed as natural, roasted, or flavored snacks.
They are also the main ingredient in cooking and baking, particularly in Asian cuisine.
Recently, cashew milk has become quite famous as a lactose-free milk alternative.
Similar to almonds and walnuts, cashews are nutritious and rich in minerals.
Amongst the nuts family, cashews have the lowest content of fat.
- 157 kcal of calorie
- 5 grams of protein
- 6.11 grams of carbs
- 0.9 grams of total dietary fiber
- 12.4 grams of total lipid
- 9.5 mcg of vitamin K (~12% of %DV)
- 0.6 milligrams of copper (~31% of %DV)
- 0.5 milligrams of manganese (~23% of %DV)
- 81.8 milligrams of magnesium (~20% of %DV)
- 166 milligrams of phosphorus (~17% of %DV)
- 1.6 milligrams of zinc (~11% of %DV)
- 1.9 milligrams of iron (~10% of %DV)
Cashews also contain a decent amount of vitamin E, selenium, potassium, and calcium.
Almost 80% of cashew’s fat is unsaturated, which helps keep a healthy level of cholesterol.
In one 2017 randomized controlled trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from Illinois studied the effect of cashew consumption on serum lipids of people with or at risk of high LDL cholesterol.
Fifty-one men and women between the age of 21 and 73 years old consumed a typical American diet incorporated with 28g to 64 g of cashews per day for a 28-day period with two weeks of washout.
The outcome of this trial was spectacular.
Cashew diet significantly lowers LDL cholesterol by up to 4.8%, total cholesterol by up to 3.9%, and non-HDL cholesterol by over 5% without any effect on triglycerides and HDL cholesterol.
Another recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition reported that cashew nut consumption increases good cholesterol in subjects with type 2 diabetes.
Apart from cashews’ capacity to lower cholesterol, several studies have shown other beneficial impact they have on health, such as:
Cholesterol-lowering Nuts #4: Pecans
Pecans (Carya illinoinensis) are another popular edible tree nut.
Pecan nuts are fruits of a hickory tree species native to North America.
Although pecans are rich in fat, more than half of their fats are monounsaturated.
Some people stay away from pecans as they are usually linked to indulgent desserts, such as pecan pie.
However, pecans provide distinct nutritional perks.
Pecans give a bit of extra sweetness but only consist of one gram of sugar, making them a great addition to many dishes.
They are also complex foods with plenty of nutrients and bioactive compounds.
- 196 kcal of calorie
- 2.6 grams of protein
- 3.93 grams of carbs
- 2.72 grams of total dietary fiber
- 20.4 grams of total lipid
- 0.3 milligrams of copper (~17% of %DV)
- 1.3 milligrams of manganese (~63% of %DV)
- 33.9 milligrams of magnesium (~8% of %DV)
- 77.5 milligrams of phosphorus (~8% of %DV)
- 1.6 milligrams of zinc (~8% of %DV)
- 0.2 mcg of thiamin (~12% of %DV)
In addition, pecans are packed with antioxidants and contain the highest amount of gamma-tocopherols (a type of vitamin E and an antioxidant) amongst the nuts.
In one study published in the Nutrition Research, researchers from the United States investigated the effect of pecans on plasma concentration of tocopherols and antioxidant capacity.
The study found that people who consume pecans as 20% of their calorie intake had an enhanced antioxidant profile in their blood.
A few studies have also reported that pecans can lower bad or LDL cholesterol.
One randomized, controlled study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reported the positive impact of pecans on LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol.
In the study, 19 subjects with normal cholesterol levels were divided into two groups, each of which consumed different types of diet.
One group (pecan group) incorporated 68 grams of pecan nutmeats into their self-selected diet every day over the course of eight weeks, whereas the other group (control group) only consumed a self-selected diet without any nut within the same period.
Astoundingly, the pecan group showed a significant decrease of as much as 10% of LDL cholesterol at week four and 6% at week eight.
Their total cholesterols were also considerably lowered.
Apart from reducing blood cholesterol level, research shows that pecans can contribute to the following health benefits:
- Boost immunity
- Maintaining blood sugar levels, especially in patients with type 2 diabetes
- Lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease
- Anticancer properties
- Protective effect against vital organs’ toxicity
- Anti-inflammatory effect
Cholesterol-lowering Nuts #5: Macadamia
Macadamias (Macadamia integrifolia) are evergreen trees indigenous to Australia.
Australia and South Africa are the largest suppliers of macadamia nuts today, accounting for about 50% of the world’s macadamias production.
Macadamias are quite popular amongst the consumers due to their subtle buttery flavor with a velvety-soft crunch.
They go well with other flavor combinations and are usually consumed either raw, salted, and roasted as snacks, toppings in salads, or as part of the main meal.
Aside from providing excellent taste and versatility, macadamias also contain incredible nutritional composition.
- 204 kcal of calorie
- 2.24 grams of protein
- 3.92 grams of carbs
- 2.44 grams of total dietary fiber
- 21.5 grams of total lipid
- 0.2 milligrams of copper (~11% of %DV)
- 1.2 milligrams of manganese (~58% of %DV)
- 36.4 milligrams of magnesium (~9% of %DV)
- 0.3 milligrams of thiamine (~22% of %DV)
Macadamia nuts also contain a decent quantity of vitamins, including vitamin C, E and B6, riboflavin, niacin, and folate.
They also contain plenty of other minerals, such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and selenium.
In addition, macadamia nuts are packed with monounsaturated fats (MUFA), a kind of fat that can help boost heart health.
Several studies found that a diet rich in macadamia nuts can reduce both the LDL and total cholesterol in people with high cholesterol levels.
In a randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers from Pennsylvania State University compare a macadamia nut-rich diet with the average American diet over a 5-week period.
The study found that people consuming the macadamia nuts-enhanced diet have a lower concentration of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol compared to those consuming the normal diet.
Earlier clinical trials released in the Archives of Internal Medicine and Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology also showed similar findings.
In addition to their cholesterol-reducing property, macadamia nuts provide the following potential health benefits:
- An excellent source of antioxidants, which protect against cellular damage and decrease the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disorder, and Alzheimer’s disease
- Prevent coronary artery disease
- Lower risk of metabolic syndrome
- May help in weight loss
- Enhance gut health
- Boost brain health
Cholesterol-lowering Nuts #6: Brazil nuts
Brazil nuts (Bertholletia excelsa) are the triangular edible seed of Brazil nut trees originated from the Amazonian rainforest.
The current biggest supplier of Brazil nuts is Bolivia, producing approximately 75% of the planet’s total production.
They have a rich, tender, and mild flavor and primarily consumed either directly in raw, salted or roasted forms, or used as an ingredient in snacks and cookies.
Macadamia nuts are nutrition-dense and are an excellent source of the mineral selenium, a vital trace mineral essential for your immune system and cell growth.
In fact, one ounce of the nuts offers more than 100% of the reference daily intake for selenium.
- 187 kcal of calorie
- 4.06 grams of protein
- 3.3 grams of carbs
- 2.13 grams of total dietary fiber
- 19 grams of total lipid
- 537 mcg of selenium (~767% of %DV)
- 105 milligrams of magnesium (~26% of %DV)
- 203 milligrams of phosphorus (~20% of %DV)
- 0.3 milligrams of manganese (~17% of %DV)
- 0.5 milligrams of copper (~24% of %DV)
- 1.1 milligrams of zinc (~8% of %DV)
- 1.6 milligrams of vitamin E (~8% of %DV)
- 0.2 milligrams of thiamine (~12% of %DV)
Brazil nuts also contain a decent amount of potassium, iron, calcium, folate, vitamin B6, and riboflavin.
Research shows that brazil nuts help improve lipid profile and lower cholesterol levels.
In one study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 17 obese female adolescents were divided into two groups. One group was supplemented with Brazil nuts while the other with lactose as a placebo.
The study found that compared to placebo, Brazil nuts consumption reduced triglycerides, as well as total and LDL cholesterols.
Another study released in the same journal investigated the impact of Brazilnuts consumption on the serum lipid profile of ten healthy subjects.
Aside from a significant rise in the plasma selenium levels, the researchers found that the subjects’ level of LDL cholesterol was significantly lowered. In contrast, their level of good cholesterol was considerably higher after consuming 20 to 50 grams of nuts.
Apart from boosting your serum lipid profile, several studies showed that Brazil nuts might benefit your health in multiple ways, which include:
- Supporting your thyroid function
- Increase your antioxidant status
- Reduce inflammation
- Promote heart health
- Promote brain health
Interesting fact: Brazil nut tree is one of the tallest trees in the tropical rainforest of Amazon Basin, reaching up to 50 meters in height and can reach up to 1,000 years of age.
Cholesterol-lowering Nuts #7: Hazelnuts
Hazelnuts (Corylus avellana) or filbert is a type of tree nuts primarily grown in Europe and Asia.
The leading suppliers of hazelnuts are Turkey and Italy.
- 178 kcal of calorie
- 4.24 grams of protein
- 4.73 grams of carbs
- 2.75 grams of total dietary fiber
- 17.2 grams of total lipid
- 1.7 milligrams of manganese (~87% of %DV)
- 0.5 milligrams of copper (~24% of %DV)
- 46.1 milligrams of magnesium (~12% of %DV)
- 81.9 milligrams of phosphorus (~8% of %DV)
- 1.3 milligrams of iron (~7% of %DV)
- 4.2 milligrams of vitamin E (~21% of %DV)
- 0.2 milligrams of thiamine (~12% of %DV)
- 0.2 milligrams of vitamin B6 (~8% of %DV)
- 31.9 mcg of folate (~8% of %DV)
Hazelnuts also contain a decent amount of vitamin K, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, potassium, zinc, and selenium.
According to one study published in Food Chemistry, due to the high ration of unsaturated to saturated fatty acids in hazelnut oil, adding it into processed foods can boost the foods’ nutritional excellence.
A systematic review and meta-analysis by a group of researchers from Italy combine the findings from multiple trials to evaluate the effect of hazelnuts on blood lipids and body weight.
Their findings showed that a diet rich in hazelnut significantly lowers LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol while triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, and BMI remain the same.
In a randomized controlled trial released in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from Turkey assessed the effects of hazelnut-enriched diet on blood cholesterol and lipoprotein.
For a peri of eight weeks, fifteen adult men with high cholesterol levels aged 33 to 59 years old were fed with two diets, the first diet is low-fat, low-cholesterol, and high carbs, whereas the second diet contains about 40 grams of hazelnut.
The study found that the hazelnut-enriched diet reduced the subjects’ VLDL cholesterol level and increased their HDL cholesterol by up to 12.6%.
The diet also reduced the participants’ total to HDL cholesterol ratios, which indicates a lower risk of coronary heart disease.
In another randomized controlled trial conducted by researchers from New Zealand, forty-eight hypercholesterolemic subjects were asked to consume 30 grams of hazelnuts (sliced, ground, or whole) for four weeks.
The study showed that hazelnuts help enhance the cholesterol and vitamin E concentrations in the blood.
Another clinical trial published in the International Journal of Clinical Chemistry found that hazelnut supplementation improved blood antioxidant status and reduced plasma cholesterol levels.
Moreover, one randomized controlled trial released in the Archives of Internal Medicine discovered that a Mediterranean diet enriched with 30 grams of mixed nuts, which consist of walnuts (50%), almonds, and hazelnuts, leads to a lower concentration of oxidized LDL cholesterol.
Aside from boosting your cholesterol level, hazelnuts provide the following potential health effects:
- Lower the risk of heart disease
- Normalize blood pressure
- Protect against cancer
- Reduce inflammation
- Lower blood sugar level
Can eating too many nuts cause high cholesterol?
Although nuts are calorie-dense, they are not linked to weight gain and high cholesterol. In fact, research shows that certain nuts help reduces bad cholesterol levels and may help maintain or increase good cholesterol levels. AHA suggests eating about a handful of unsalted, unoiled nuts per week.
Are cashews good for lowering cholesterol?
Cashews are one of the best nuts to eat to lower cholesterol. A recent study released in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the inclusion of cashew nuts into a typical American diet can significantly reduce LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol by 4.8% and 3.9%, respectively.