A handful of almonds, 43 grams in fact, eaten every day helps to increase levels of good cholesterol while also helping to eliminate the body of bad cholesterol, new research has revealed.
Almonds improved levels of good cholesterol as well as improving it's function in the body
The research team compared the levels and function of high-density (HDL cholesterol) in people who ate almonds daily, to the HDL levels and function of the same group of people when they ate a muffin with an equal amount of calories in it.
The 48 participants comprising the study were aged between 30 and 65 and were given identical diets apart from the almonds v muffin snack - the almonds were unsalted and were not blanched (skin on) - and the study was conducted over a 6 week period.
The results showed that consuming almonds resulted in not just increased HDL levels in the body but also improved the function of HDL cholesterol - which works by mopping up cholesterol from tissues such as the arteries and transporting it out of the body.
Study author Professor Kris-Etherton from Pennsylvania State University, 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 were able to show 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're going to tissues and pulling out cholesterol, getting bigger, and taking that cholesterol to the liver for removal from the body."
Results support previous research
The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, supports previous studies that have suggested almonds play a role in cholesterol management and reduce a person's risk of heart disease.
Almonds also boost overall health by being a good source of healthy fats, vitamin E and fiber. Professor Penny Kris-Etherton said:
"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."