If you are already eating a Mediterranean heart-healthy diet, that’s good news. Foods from the diet avoid refined grains, such as white bread, white pasta, and pizza dough containing white flour.
Studies show that if you add a nice handful of walnuts daily can significantly work to lower cholesterol levels when combined with a Mediterranean heart-healthy diet. Eating walnuts every has the potential to help lower “bad” cholesterol in older people but may not improve “good” cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
The Mediterranean heart-healthy diet includes foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, breads, herbs, spices, fish, seafood, and extra virgin olive oil. Red meat is allowed on occasion, but not part of a daily meal plan.
The diet also rules out refined oils, which include canola oil and soybean oil, foods with added sugars, such as pastries, sodas, and candies. Deli meats, hot dogs, and other processed meats are not part of a heart healthy diet.
Harvard just published some recent findings about the walnut study. This latest analysis combined data from 26 previous trials that included more than 1,000 people; compared with those on a regular diet, those consuming a walnut-enriched diet had:
- lower total cholesterol (by about 7 mg/dL, representing a 3% greater reduction)
- lower LDL cholesterol (by about 5.5 mg/dL, a 4% greater reduction)
- lower triglycerides (by about 5.7 mg/dL, a 5.5% greater reduction)
- lower apoprotein B (a protein linked to cardiovascular disease) by nearly 4 mg/dL
More good news for walnuts. Walnuts also help counteract oxidative stress and inflammation, two drivers of cognitive decline. Clinical data concerning effects on cognition are lacking. Walnut supplementation for 2 y had no effect on cognition in healthy elders. However, brain fMRI and post hoc analyses by site suggest that walnuts might delay cognitive decline in subgroups at higher risk. These encouraging but inconclusive results warrant further investigation, particularly targeting disadvantaged populations, in whom greatest benefit could be expected. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT01634841.
Source reported by National Institute of Health.