Can Adding Macadamia Nuts to Your Diet Improve Your Cholesterol?

Macadamia Nuts
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Macadamia nuts—a type of tree nut that is native to Australia—get somewhat of a bad reputation because of their fatty content and their tendency to be placed into candies and cookies. However, macadamia nuts are chock-full of healthy nutrients, including iron, vitamin B6, protein, and magnesium. Like other tree nuts, some studies are showing that macadamia nuts might have some heart-healthy benefits—including keeping your lipid levels within a healthy range.

Macadamia Nuts: How Do the Studies Stack Up?

There haven’t been as many studies conducted with macadamia nuts in comparison to other popular nuts, such as walnutspistachios, and almonds—all of which have been shown to lower cholesterol in studies. The few, small studies that have looked at the lipid-lowering effects of macadamia nuts were conducted in people who were either healthy or were overweight and had slightly high cholesterol levels.

In these studies, 40 to 90 grams of macadamia nuts were consumed daily for up to five weeks. The macadamia nuts were served plain, roasted, were slightly salted, or had spices added to them. They were consumed alone or eaten with other foods as part of a healthy diet. From these studies, it was discovered that:

  • HDL cholesterol levels varied widely. In one study, HDL was increased by up to 8 percent, whereas other studies saw a slight decrease in HDL levels.
  • Triglyceride levels were not significantly affected.

People consuming the macadamia nuts also appeared to maintain their normal weight throughout the study.

How Do Macadamia Nuts Lower Cholesterol Levels?

It’s not really known how macadamia nuts help lower cholesterol levels. However, there appears to be a few nutrients packed into the tiny nut that may contribute to its ability to lower cholesterol, including:

Previous studies have shown that all of these nutrients have the ability to slightly lower LDL cholesterol. Studies have also shown that monounsaturated fats can increase HDL cholesterol levels.

Should Macadamia Nuts Be Included in Your Lipid-Lowering Diet?

There are a few studies that show that at least a handful (40 grams or about 1.5 ounces) of macadamia nuts may be able to slightly lower your LDL and total cholesterol levels. More studies would be needed to further investigate the cholesterol-lowering effects of macadamia nuts.

Macadamia nuts are high in many essential nutrients—and the fact that they are high in cholesterol—friendly ingredients, such as fiber and monounsaturated fat, make them a good food to include in your lipid-lowering diet if you are looking for a little bit of variety. Macadamia nuts are very versatile, so there are many ways to include this delicious nut in your healthy diet:

  • Tossing in a few macadamia nuts into any whole grain breads.
  • Grabbing a handful of macadamia nuts as a quick snack. If you are watching your salt intake, make sure that you select unsalted varieties of the nut.
  • Adding macadamia nuts into your salads.
  • Slicing a few macadamia nuts and adding them into your healthy entrees and sides.

Although they are nutrient-rich, macadamia nuts are also high in calories and fat—so they may cause you to gain weight if you overindulge in them. To prevent this, you should make sure that you are replacing other foods in your diet with macadamia nuts, instead of adding the macadamia nuts onto what you already eat each day.

Sources:

Del Gobbo LC, Falk MC, Feldman, et al. Effects of tree nuts on blood lipids, apolipoproteins, and blood pressure: a systematic review, meta analysis and dose response of 61 controlled intervention trials. Am J Clin Nutr 2015; 102: 1347-1356.

Garg ML, Blake RJ, Wills RBH et al. Macadamia nut comsumption modulates favorably risk factors for coronary artery disease in hypercholesterolemic subjects. Lipids 2007; 42: 583-587.

Griel AE, Cao Y, Bagshaw DD, et al. A macadamia nut rich diet reduces total and LDL cholesterol in mildly hypercholesterolemic men and women. J Nutr 2008; 138: 761-767. 

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