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Pistachio Nuts Improve Cholesterol



Turkey is a Mediterranean country, and as such The Mediterranean Diet is common there. Researchers in Turkey noted that pistachio nuts are popular in areas from western Asia to Afghanistan and beyond, so they chose to focus their research on nut consumption and cholesterol on pistachios (Nutr Met & Card Dis 2006(3);16:202-209).

The study volunteers included 24 men and 20 women who were otherwise healthy, without food allergies, and did not smoke. They had fairly normal cholesterol profiles and were not on any medications that would affect their cholesterol or metabolism. The researchers split them into two groups: the control group and the pistachio group. For one week, both groups ate their normal diet, and at the end of the week their cholesterol levels were tested.

Then for three weeks the control group followed a diet that did not include any nut products, but was otherwise healthy and designed to maintain their current weight. The pistachio group, however, followed a diet in which about 20% of their caloric intake was from pistachio nuts. The non-nut portion of their diet was adjusted to reduce the portion sizes of fatty foods (meat, for example) and oils, margarine, or butter so that the amount of calories from fat they were consuming would maintain their current weights. Again, at the end of the three-week period all of the subjects had their cholesterol tested.

Although none of the subjects gained or lost weight, the pistachio group had excellent results in the area of their cholesterol profile: their total cholesterol was down, their HDL levels (the good stuff) were up by about 25%, and their LDL levels (the bad stuff) was reduced as well.

What this means for you:

Granted, it's a bit unrealistic to think that anyone's going to get a full 20% of their calories from nuts every day. But this study (which was not funded by any nut company) is confirming what other studies have shown: that eating nuts is good for you. Make nuts a regular part of your healthy diet by eating them as a snack, putting them in salads, or using them in recipes, like my Pistachio Crusted Grouper.

First posted: August 2, 2006