what are your views on eating nuts for heart disease....mostly coronary artery disease? I make alot of dressings out of raw cashews and also use flaxseed every morning....
An optimal diet does not require the inclusion of any one food (berries, soy, broccoli, etc), including nuts. And, some of what you hear about nuts, is somewhat distorted.
My nutritional recommendations are the same for heart disease as they are in general, including my recommendations for nuts/seeds. After all, a truly healthy diet should not only be helpful for heart disease, it should also be helpful for obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, arthritis, cancer, etc, etc.
Nuts are nutritious and can be a good source of some vitamins and minerals, but we always have to look at a food as a total package and not just any one aspect of it.
Nuts, are around 70% fat. And, while most of the fat in nuts is not saturated fat, the very high fat content increases the calorie density of the nuts. Nuts, at 2800 calories per pound, are one of the most calorie dense foods there are on the planet. Adding foods that are high in calorie density increases the overall calorie density of the diet. And, as you increase the calorie density of someones diet, you increase the likelihood they will overeat. As 66% of Americans are overweight, and 33% of them are obese, weight (And calorie density) is an important issue to be considered when promoting health and nutrition information.
Speaking of fat, most of the fat in most nuts is mono-unsaturated fat, which is not the essential fat, nor is it a "good" fat. I consider it more neutral at best. Plus, there is no requirement for us to consume mono unsaturated fat. We make plenty of it very easily.
Most nuts, outside the English walnut are a poor source of essential fats, the fat that is most beneficial for heart disease. And, it only takes about 1 oz of English walnuts, to provide the amount of essential fats we need. More is not always better. In addition, these essential fats are also abundant in green leafy vegetables also.
Walnuts are also 8.5% saturated fat, which is even above the AHA recommendation, so too many walnuts have the potential of interfering with keeping ones total saturated fat below 7%.
Too many nuts can increase the total fat content of the diet. High fat diets can interfere with blood flow, increase clotting factors, and decrease performance.
Having said all that, if someone was to follow an optimal health supporting diet, and they wanted to include some nuts/seeds, then there is probably no problem with the inclusion of 1 or 2 oz of nuts/seeds (without oil and/or salt). However, if weight is a problem, I would limit that amount to 1 oz or less. And, if they are included, to consume them as part of a meal with other foods that are very low in calorie density.
Jeff Novick, MS, RD