Home LIFESTYLE On Nutrition: Nuts, it’s February

On Nutrition: Nuts, it’s February

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Walnuts, possibly due to their higher amount of the same healthful fat found in olive oil, may be particularly helpful for blood pressure control, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Barbara Intermill
Monterey Herald

For many reasons, February is my least favorite month. It’s cold. And over the years, I’ve had to say goodbye to several loved ones, including my mom, during this month.

At the same time, it’s good to think that March is just around the corner, even if Mr. Groundhog tells us the warm days of spring will be delayed this year.

Valentine’s Day is also in February, and I do like that American Heart Month coincides with this holiday of love. One way we can love our hearts, says the Centers for Disease Control, is to keep our blood pressure in a normal range. Why? Hypertension (high blood pressure) often predicts an impending stroke or a hurting heart.

On their list of 28 Days Towards a Healthy Heart, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute suggests daily steps we can take to keep our blood pressure down and love our hearts. These are my three favorites:

1. Have a heart-healthy snack: nuts.

No, really. A recent study at Pennsylvania State University fed volunteers a banana muffin snack for several weeks. Without changing the rest of their diet, then then switched their snack to 34 unsalted almonds (1.5 ounces) for the same amount of time. They found that the nut snack reduced harmful LDL cholesterol in their blood while keeping the same or higher levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol. That’s a double benefit to keep arteries open and ready for the business of life.

Walnuts, possibly due to their higher amount of the same healthful fat found in olive oil, may be particularly helpful for blood pressure control, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Aim for two to three ounces a week for this benefit. (One ounce is about 1/4 cup so spread the servings out over the week.)

Other nuts that confer health benefits for our hearts include hazelnuts, pine nuts, pistachios and cashews (unsalted, please). And even though peanuts are not officially “nuts,” they have been adopted into this heart-healthful group, according to the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

2. Cut the salt.

Too much sodium makes the body retain water and puts pressure (literally) on our arteries. Yes, I know salt makes food taste good. So here’s the good news: Most of the salt (sodium) we eat is already in our food before we ever pick up the shaker. Take at look at the nutrition label. If a food has less than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving, it’s low sodium. Hint: Fresh foods are generally lower in sodium than their packaged counterparts.

3. Dance for 15 minutes to your favorite music.

Yes! Physical activity that is enjoyable strengthens our heart as well as our mood. And oxygen and nutrient-rich blood flows easier when we do a bit of huff and puff.

Maybe February isn’t such a bad month after all.

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