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Walnuts and Type 2 Diabetes
When people ask me what they should snack on in place of Doritos or Wheat Thins or other savory snacks, I have a one-word answer for them: "Nuts." It's true. For those people who are savory snackers, nuts should be your first choice of snack. (If you are a sweet snacker, fruit should be your first choice.) While I would prefer that people eat their nuts raw and unsalted, roasted and salted are also great and are certainly much better for you than Doritos. 


 

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Nuts and Heart Disease & Diabetes

shelled almonds spilled out of a clear glass bowl



I've reported in the past about the positive effects of nuts (specifically pistachio nuts) on cholesterol. It seems that almonds may have a positive effect on your risk of cardiovascular disease (CHD) or diabetes.

We know that the spike in blood glucose levels caused by eating appears to cause a spike in cell oxidants, which can damage your body's good cholesterol, your DNA, and the proteins in your bloodstream. Recently the glycemic index has received a lot of attention because a low glycemic index meal causes less of a spike in blood glucose levels - and therefore the spikex in cell oxidants.

We also know that eating nuts (as in the Mediterranean Diet) can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Researchers in Canada, Italy, and the UK theorized recently in The Journal of Nutrition (2006;136(12):2987-2992) that a meal that included almonds might help reduce cardiovascular disease - whether through a lower blood glucose level after the meal or through the almond's coating, which contains high levels of antioxidants.

The scientists recruited fifteen healthy men and women between the ages of 19 and 52. Once a week for five weeks each subject ate one of four meals:

  • The control meal, consisting only of 97 grams Wonder Bread (which they ate on two occasions);
  • An almond meal, consisting of 60 grams of almonds and 97 grams of Wonder Bread;
  • 60 grams white rice (Uncle Ben's Converted) with 68 grams of cheese and 14 grams of butter; or
  • 62 grams mashed potatoes, with 62 grams of cheese and 16 grams of butter.

After each meal the subjects' blood glucose was tested as well as their insulin levels. They found that the almond and rice meals caused lower glucose spikes and therefore lower insulin levels than the control or mashed potato meals. This was true even though the almonds were consumed with white bread. In fact, the subjects reported being more satisfied after eating the almond meal than the white bread meal.

What this means for you:

The take-home message here is that eating almonds may help minimize the cellular damage caused by the antioxidants your body releases in response to carbohydrate-heavy meals. Keep almonds or other nuts (roasted, not sugar-coated) in your desk drawer as a healthy snack that will likely be more satisfying than that cookie out of the vending machine.

First posted: November 29, 2006