Heart Health Foods
Almonds iStock/Source

A pile of raw, unsalted almonds.

August 14, 2017

Penn State researchers find handful of almonds a day could boost 'good cholesterol'

Heading to the pantry for a snack? Consider grabbing a handful of almonds instead of that bag of pretzels or crackers – you could be doing your heart a big favor, according to researchers at Penn State University.

Eating the nuts on a regular basis could help boost a person's high-density lipoprotein, or HDL cholesterol, which is often called "the good cholesterol," as well as improve the way "bad" cholesterol is removed, researchers said in a news release published late last week.

“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,” Penny Kris-Etherton, a nutrition professor at the university, said about the study. “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.” 

To find the results, researchers took 48 men and women with higher levels of LDL cholesterol and put them on two, six-week-long diets. They ate the same things for the duration of time, minus the snack. The group rotated between munching on 43 grams of almonds a day to a banana muffin during the controlled portion of the study.

The group's HDL cholesterol levels and functionality were then taken and compared to pre-study levels.

“We were able to show that there were more larger particles in response to consuming the almonds compared to not consuming almonds,” Kris-Etherton said. “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.”

In addition to boosting HDL cholesterol, almonds also give off good fats, vitamin E and fiber, too, according to the study that was published in The Journal of Nutrition and supported by The Almond Board of California. 

While the research shows that almonds are a good choice for those looking to improve heart health, almonds should be eaten in moderation.

Read more of Penn State's research on almonds here