Pistachio Nuts, A Natural Remedy to Lower Cholesterol But Is It All bad?

Although researchers have shown before that natural unsalted pistachio nuts can be used as a natural health remedy to lower cholesterol some recent research sheds more light on how they do it.

The scientists studied the effects of three cholesterol-lowering diets one without pistachios and two with varied levels of pistachios for 4 weeks each. The cholesterol lowering diet known as Step 1 recommended by the American Heart Association (AMA) was used.

The participants began the study by eating a typical American diet consisting of 35% total fat and 11% saturated fat for two weeks. The best results came from a diet where 20 percent of the energy supplied by pistachio nuts.

The diet had 34 percent total fat and 8 percent saturated fat. The researchers found that the nuts decreased Stearoyl CoA Desaturase (SCD), an important enzyme involved in cholesterol metabolism.”

Pistachios contain high amounts of mono-unsaturated fatty acids which is a natural health remedy that decreases LDL, the “bad” cholesterol and increases HDL, the “good” cholesterol. LDL (low density lipoprotein) is the substance that carries cholesterol through the blood stream.

If too much LDL cholesterol circulates, it can gradually build up in the walls of the arteries clogging them. About a third of blood cholesterol is carried by HDL (high density lipoprotein) which carries cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it’s eliminated from the body.

Of all nuts pistachios contain higher levels of the antioxidant lutein which is natural health remedy that helps prevent cholesterol from clogging up arteries. Compared with other nuts pistachios nuts also have a relatively low calorie value are high in fiber and low in saturated fat.

Researchers say pistachio nuts significantly lower the risk of heart disease and appear to lower cholesterol and keep arteries healthy if they are eaten as part of a healthy cholesterol lowering diet. Don’t expect to be able to add handfuls of pistachios to a diet of burgers, pizza and fries and lower your cholesterol. Eat them in place of other high fat foods and make sure they are unsalted and have no added oils.

Because they are high in fat they can easily go rancid if not stored in a cool dark place. The nuts will be more protected if they are in shells.

However there is a lot of controversy over the part cholesterol has to play in heart disease. There are people with high cholesterol levels who never have a heart attack. 60-70% of all blood cholesterol comes from production by the liver, not from pre-formed cholesterol in the foods.

The body produces cholesterol as its needed. We cannot live without it. Every cell in your body contains cholesterol as part of its structure. Many of your hormones are made from cholesterol.

There are several theories about cholesterol and heart disease. One theory maintains that cholesterol is laid down in the arteries to repair them when they are damaged. They can be damaged by lack of certain nutrients such as Vitamins C & E, B6,the mineral zinc, the fatty acid GLA (gamma linolenic acid) that comes from Omega 3 oils and excessive intake of damaging substances like tobacco smoke, alcohol, envionmental pollution, heqt damaged and rancid fats.

Another theory states that LDL cholesterol is only harmful once it has been oxidized. Cholesterol becomes oxidized when it has been damaged by reactive oxygen molecules called free radicals.

Here are some of the things you can do to reduce the risk of heart disease:

  • Do not smoke and keep alcohol intake low.
  • Take regular exercise – brisk walking, jogging, cycling away from traffic fumes.
  • Avoid simple sugars and refined foods.
  • Eat more fiber from whole grains, peas, beans, lentils and fresh vegetables.
  • Avoid fried food as they contain cholesterol oxides that damage your arteries.
  • Avoid hydrogenated and trans fats in processed foods like most margarines, shortening, processed vegetable oils.
  • Use cold pressed virgin olive oil or flax seed oil sparingly but never heat the latter. Some health authorities are now saying that olive oil should not be heated either.
  • Cook in saturated fats like butter, ghee (clarified butter), coconut butter, beef goose or duck fat which are unlikely to be damaged by heat. They do not cause heart disease.
  • Eat some small fish, low in mercury, or take pure fish oil capsules, fresh, unsalted and unprocessed nuts.
  • Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Use stress reduction techniques such as listening to relaxation CD’s or tapes, yoga, tai chi, Qi-Gung, meditation or drumming.