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Add walnuts to your diet for better cardiovascular health: an ounce of nuts a day may also help cut your risk of type 2 diabetes.

If you're at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, you may want to consider adding some walnuts to your next salad. Or just grab a handful for an afternoon snack.

A small study, recently published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, suggests that eating one ounce of walnuts a day may help improve your cholesterol levels, arterial health, and the overall quality of your diet. Walnuts are high in polyunsaturated fats, which are considered healthy fats. They're also rich in nutrients, such as folate and vitamin E.

"Walnuts are also high in alpha linolenic acid, a precursor of omega3 fatty acid," says dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, with the Preventive Cardiology section at Cleveland Clinic. "They help reduce swelling (inflammation), lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides, and help increase good cholesterol (HDL)."

Walnuts' good rep

This study isn't the first to recognize the many heart-healthy benefits of walnuts. In 2011, at a conference of the American Chemical Society, a researcher named the walnut the number one nut for heart health. The walnut earned this distinction because it is higher in antioxidants than other tree nuts.

Antioxidants are tiny molecules that fight against free radicals, which are molecules that attack healthy cells and are associated with cancer, heart disease and other serious health problems.

The study didn't show any cause-and-effect relationship between walnut consumption and lowered diabetes risk. And researchers didn't observe improvements in blood glucose or blood pressure among the study participants who ate walnuts every day.

Get more walnuts in your diet

Fortunately, walnuts are a fairly versatile food.

"You can add walnuts to hot or dry cereal in the morning," Zumpano says. "You can chop them and add to a salad or throw into a smoothie. Try walnut butter instead of peanut butter, or try walnuts in baked goods."

Aside from adding a little more crunch in your diet, walnuts can simply be a way to help make your eating style a little healthier. Walnuts can be a healthier alternative to snack foods that are high in sodium, saturated fat, or sugar.

Try keeping some walnuts on hand, and when you're snacking, baking or making a salad, get into the habit of working them into your diet.

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Title Annotation:NUTRITION
Publication:Heart Advisor
Date:Feb 1, 2016
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