Sometimes you should reach for a nut

Actually, if you are trying to lower your cholesterol, about a third of a cup of nuts a day should help, according to a study in Tuesday’s Archives of Internal Medicine. That’s good news if you are like me and gobble down a handful of peanuts or sunflower seeds as a snack that can help fend off the compulsion to grab that bag of chips that will only make you hungry for more junk food.

Turns out that dieting trick is probably a good way to lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol. Researchers from Loma Linda University in California and colleagues in Spain examined data from 25 studies of nut consumption to examine the impact how other factors such as weight and diet type (Mediterranean, low fat etc.) on cholesterol lowering.

The researchers found that eating about a third of a cup a day improves cholesterol levels. And that the impact is greater for people with high cholesterol at begin with. It also works better for folks with lower body mass indexes.

“Nuts are a whole food that have been consumed by humans throughout history,” the researchers concluded. “Increasing the consumption of nuts as part of an otherwise prudent diet can be expected to favorably affect blood lipid [cholesterol] levels (at least in the short term).”

Today, drugs called statins are the used to treat high cholesterol. Statins and other "lipid regulators," are the most commonly used medications in the U.S. with 210 million prescriptions filled and $14.3 billion in sales in 2009, according to IMS Health, a firm with offices in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. that tracks drug sales

The researchers notes that the eating nuts could also lower the risk of heart disease.

For me, the biggest challenge will be limiting myself to the 67 grams a day recommended, that’s 2.4 ounces or just about 1/3rd cup.