The New Low-Cholesterol Diet: Walnuts

Walnuts aren't just for holidays anymore

By R. Morgan Griffin
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Cynthia Haines, MD

If you're like many Americans, you may crack open fresh walnuts only during the holiday season. But research shows there's good reason to enjoy this nut year round. Unless you're allergic to nuts, walnuts belong in a low-cholesterol diet. So get cracking.

How Do Walnuts Help?

"In general, nuts are good," says American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Suzanne Farrell, MS, RD. "But walnuts are great because they have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Other nuts don't."

Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in fatty fish like tuna and salmon. We know that omega-3 fatty acids lower levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in the bloodstream, although experts aren't exactly sure how. Omega-3 fatty acids may also slow down the growth of plaques in the arteries and reduce swelling throughout the body.

What's the Evidence?

There are a number of small studies that show that walnuts can help lower cholesterol.

One 2004 study of 58 adults with diabetes looked at the effects of eating a handful of walnuts each day in addition to a healthy diet. The researchers found that on average, people who ate the walnuts had an increase in their good HDL cholesterol and a drop of 10% in their bad LDL cholesterol levels. The results were published in the journal Diabetes Care.