Which Nuts Help Lower Cholesterol?

Eat Nuts for Better Health

J Shepherd/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Eating nuts is getting a lot of good press lately. Since there are many nuts common in the American diet, you might be wondering which nuts are healthy and the best to snack on to help lower your cholesterol levels? 

Eating Nuts is Good for Your Health

If you eat nuts regularly, you are less likely to have a heart attack or die from heart disease. Eating nuts several times a week can reduce your risk of heart attack, sudden cardiac death or cardiovascular disease by 30 to 50 percent, according to a report by the Harvard T.H.

Chan School of Public Health.

Nuts Are High in Fat, So How Can They Lower Cholesterol? 

Nuts, such as almonds, pistachios and walnuts, contain high amounts of unsaturated fat -- or “good” fats, which increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) -- or “bad” cholesterol -- levels. 

Omega-3 fatty acids are good fats found in walnuts, fatty fish and other foods. Studies show omega-3s help regulate an erratic heartbeat and prevent blood clots. Heart arrhythmias are the leading cause of sudden cardiac death. 

Arginine is an amino acid found in high amounts in nuts that helps your body make nitric oxide, which relaxes constricted blood vessels. 

Other healthful nutrients in nuts include:

  • folic acid, a B vitamin that reduces total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels and is necessary for the formation of new cells
  • potassium is a mineral that reduces the effects of sodium in your body, assists with the breakdown of carbs, and helps control your heart's electrical activity
  • vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects your cells from damage by free radicals and maintains metabolic processes

Saturated fats that raise your cholesterol typically come from animal products like meat and dairy. 

The Best Nuts to Lower Cholesterol

The best nuts to lower cholesterol have the highest amounts of unsaturated fats and the lowest amount of saturated fats.

These include, but are not limited to:

Are Peanuts Heart-Healthy?

The peanut is the most popular "nut" (really a legume) in the United States and contains high amounts of unsaturated fat and lower amounts of saturated fat.

The peanut's unsaturated fat profile encourages heart health. Even so, farmers have now developed a way to grow high-oleic peanuts, which have a higher content of unsaturated fat and lower content of saturated fat when compared with regular peanuts. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given approval for these nuts, in addition to almonds, to receive a ”heart-healthy” distinction on their labeling.

Dry Roasted, Salted Nuts as Good as Raw?

Dry roasted, lightly salted nuts appear to have similar health benefits as eating raw nuts, according to a study published in a 2016 issue of the European Journal of Nutrition. Previous studies reported on the health benefits of raw nuts, which some people find less tasty.

For 28 days, 72 participants consumed 30 grams of either raw or dry roasted, lightly salted hazelnuts.

The roasted-salted group had significantly lower HDL, the good cholesterol, and triglycerides compare to the raw group. 

Body fat composition, blood pressure, blood sugar and LDL were the same in both groups.


Coates AM, Howe PR. Edible nuts and metabolic health. Curr Opinion Lipidol. (2007) 

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: Nuts for the Heart

Tey, et al. European Journal of Nutrition: Do Dry Roasting, Lightly Salting Nuts Affect Their Cardioprotective Properties and Acceptability? (2016) 

USDA Agricultural Research Center--Nutrient Data Laboratory. (2007)

Continue Reading