A study suggests that downing a handful every day may help boost levels of HDL cholesterol while improving the way it removes cholesterol from the body.
Researchers compared the levels and function of HDL cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein) in people who ate almonds every day, to the levels and function of the same group of people when they ate a muffin instead.
The findings showed that while the participants were on the almond diet, their HDL levels improved.
Professor Penny Kris-Etherton, of Penn State University in the US, said that while almonds will not eliminate the risk of heart disease, they may be a smart choice for a healthy snack.
She said that in addition to their heart-healthy benefits, almonds also provide a dose of good fats, vitamin E and fibre.
“If people incorporate almonds into their diet, they should expect multiple benefits, including ones that can improve heart health.
They’re not a cure-all, but when eaten in moderation, and especially when eaten instead of a food of lower nutritional value, they’re a great addition to an already healthy diet.
There’s a lot of research out there that shows a diet that includes almonds lowers low-density lipoprotein, or LDL cholesterol, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.
“But not as much was known about how almonds affect HDL cholesterol, which is considered good cholesterol and helps lower your risk of heart disease.”
The researchers wanted to see if almonds could not just increase the levels but also improve the function of HDL cholesterol, which works by gathering cholesterol from tissues, such as the arteries, and helping to transport it out of the body.
Prof Kris-Etherton said: “HDL is very small when it gets released into circulation. It’s like a garbage bag that slowly gets bigger and more spherical as it gathers cholesterol from cells and tissues before depositing them in the liver to be broken down.
“We showed that there were more larger particles in response to consuming the almonds compared to not consuming almonds.
“That would translate to the smaller particles doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
“They are going to tissues and pulling out cholesterol, getting bigger, and taking that cholesterol to the liver for removal from the body.” The findings were published in the Journal of Nutrition.