This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
Adding a handful of almonds to your diet has been linked to everything from helping to reduce inflammation and promote brain fog treatment to supporting improved blood sugar levels.
And as another win for this nutty snack, researchers have found that including almonds in your diet regularly can help increase “good” HDL cholesterol and improve its function of removing “bad” LDL cholesterol, according to a study at Penn State University.
“There’s a lot of research out there that shows a diet that includes almonds lowers low-density lipoprotein, or LDL cholesterol, which is a major risk factor for heart disease,” said Penny Kris-Etherton, distinguished professor of nutrition at Penn State. “But not as much was known about how almonds affect HDL cholesterol, which is considered good cholesterol and helps lower your risk of heart disease.”
Therefore, the study had the purpose of determining if almonds can raise HDL cholesterol levels and improve its clearing action. HDL works by gathering cholesterol out of arteries and other tissues, as well as by helping transport it out of the body.
In the randomized, two-period, crossover, controlled-feeding study, 48 adults with high LDL, or bad cholesterol, participated in two six-week diet periods. The diets were identical with the exception of the daily snack, which was a handful of almonds in one period and a banana muffin in the other.
Following the conclusion of each six-week experiment, the researchers measured the level and function of the participants’ HDL and compared the data to the measurements taken at the onset of the study. When on the almond-augmented diet, the individuals had a 19-percent increase in a-1 HDL, which is the largest and most mature subpopulation of the lipoprotein. In addition, the HDL function improved 6.4 percent among those with normal weight.
Evidence Indicates Almonds Can Enhance HDL Clearing Action
“HDL is very small when it gets released into circulation,” Kris-Etherton said. “It’s like a garbage bag that slowly gets bigger and more spherical as it gathers cholesterol from cells and tissues before depositing them in the liver to be broken down.”
“We were able to show that there were more larger particles in response to consuming the almonds compared to not consuming almonds,” Kris-Etherton said. “That would translate to the smaller particles doing what they’re supposed to be doing. They’re going to tissues and pulling out cholesterol, getting bigger, and taking that cholesterol to the liver for removal from the body.”
Almonds Are a Healthy Snack
Kris-Etherton explained the rise in a-1 HDL is significant because the particles reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. She said the almonds won’t remove the risk, but they’re a nutritious snack because aside from their heart-healthy effect, almonds are a great source of vitamin E, fiber and good fat.
“If people incorporate almonds into their diet, they should expect multiple benefits, including ones that can improve heart health,” Kris-Etherton said. “They’re not a cure-all, but when eaten in moderation — and especially when eaten instead of a food of lower nutritional value — they’re a great addition to an already healthy diet.”