Pass up the pretzels. Skip the chips. At snack time, reach for the almonds. Although nuts are technically a high-fat food, a series of studies including several at California's Loma Linda University say that adding moderate amounts of nuts to a cholesterol-lowering diet or substituting nuts for other high-fat foods such as meats may cut normal to moderately high levels of total cholesterol and LDLs ("bad cholesterol") as much as 12 percent.

These guys should know. A while back, they made headlines with a walnut study in which volunteers were given one of two diets, both based on National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommendations. People on Diet #1 got 20 percent of their calories from fats in oils and fatty foods such as meat. Folks on Diet #2 got 20 percent of their calories from high-fat nuts instead of meat, but both controlled-fat diets appeared to lower cholesterol levels.

The take-home message here is that although nuts are high in fat, their fats are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated cholesterol busters (more about them in Chapter 7). And let us not forget that nuts also provide other heart-healthy nutrients such as arginine (an amino acid your body uses to make a clot-blocking compound called nitric oxide), folate (a B vitamin that lowers blood levels of homocysteine, a risk factor for heart disease), vitamin E, and dietary fiber.

So feel free to go (sensibly) nuts for nuts. Crunch.

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Lower Your Cholesterol In Just 33 Days

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