Q. I’ve been trying to eat more almonds for health reasons, but I’d like a little more variety. Are there any other nuts that I can add in for my health?

A. September is National Cholesterol Education Month and makes it the perfect time to talk about walnuts.

When it comes to heart health, it might surprise you that eating a calorie-dense, high-fat snack is a good choice for cardiovascular health. But it’s true. Here are a few reasons you should consider reaching for a small handful of walnuts.

  • Walnuts can help lower bad cholesterol

Researchers at Yale University recently found that participants in a study who ate two ounces of walnuts every day for six months had significant reductions in LDL (bad) cholesterol.

  • Walnuts can help lower blood pressure

In addition to lowering cholesterol, studies show that walnuts may also help decrease blood pressure, especially when combined with a diet low in saturated fat. Consider replacing a snack that’s high in saturated fat with a small handful of walnuts.

  • Walnuts have omega-3s

Walnuts are the only nuts that contain significant amounts of omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid. Your body uses this type of fat for energy and, to a limited degree, it can convert ALA into EPA and DHA—the essential omega-3s you get from certain fatty fish.

  • Walnuts have antioxidants

Walnuts contain powerful antioxidants and polyphenols that may help prevent cancer as well as memory loss and cognitive decline.

  • Walnuts contain fiber

A quarter-cup serving of walnuts also gives you 2 grams of fiber, a nutrient that can help lower cholesterol and help you feel full. Americans eating a 2,000-calorie diet should aim for 28 grams of fiber daily.

Walnuts work well in baked goods, but they’re also great on cereal, salads, and even pastas and pizzas.

Ready to stock up? Pro tip: Look for walnuts in the bulk section. To store, place shelled nuts in an airtight container in the freezer.

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Features Editor, Mankato Free Press Associate Editor, Mankato Magazine

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