THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF EATING HAZELNUTS: IMPLICATIONS FOR BLOOD LIPID PROFILES, CORONARY HEART DISEASE, AND CANCER RISKS
Nuts have been shown to possess substances which significantly reduce risk of coronary heart disease, some types of cancer, and several other diseases and physiological conditions and syndromes. Compounds which have been identified with positive health benefits include vitamin E (tocopherol) for its antioxidant properties, vitamin B-6 (see Leklem, 1991), monounsaturated fatty acids (mainly oleic acid), sterols, especially -sitosterol, and dietary fiber (especially pectins).
Several studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet is associated with significantly lower risks of coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis, and many types of cancer. Despite having a rather high proportion of the calories supplied by fats and oils (mainly olive oil) in their diets, people from Mediterranean countries have very low incidences of coronary heart disease, the lowest among industrialized nations as well as very low incidences of most cancers. Also important is that they consume considerably more nuts ( 8–12 kg per year per capita) compared to much lower amounts (1.5 to 2 kg) in the USA. Nuts in the diet provide significant nutritional factors such as natural antioxidants, which protect against many of our most serious diseases.
There are several common misperceptions among the general public about the nutritional value of nuts. Efforts by well-meaning nutritionists to create an awareness of the health risks of cholesterol consumption and high fat diets has led to these misperceptions. In the most recent diet pyramid by the USDA in the USA, nuts are placed along with meats and the suggestion that these should not be consumed more than a few times per week is very questionable as will be shown below. They really ought to be placed at the same level as fruits and vegetables as is the case of Mediterranean diet pyramids and more recently, Asian diet pyramids.
One misperception about nuts is that they not only are rich in fat, but they also have lots of cholesterol. The facts are that nuts have essentially zero cholesterol, they do