Have you ever wondered why the heart is so important?

Heart is a pumping machine that supplies oxygenated blood (pure blood) to all the cells in the body and collects deoxygenated or impure blood from them. The impure blood is sent to the lungs for oxygenation. This complete process is complex and continuous. Thus heart – the vital organ requires extra care.

What makes the heart so vulnerable?

Lifestyle changes like intake of fatty and refined food, irregular eating habits, stress, decreased physical activity and reduced sleep have put tremendous pressure on the heart. The incidence of heart diseases is on score due to sedentary life patterns.

How can scientific research help the heart?

Research suggests intake of heart-healthy diets to protect against fatal heart disorders. Nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts etc are among the heart healthy foods. Regular intake of a useful of nuts can go a long way in protecting the heart. 5 reasons why nuts are considered to be heart healthy –

1. Good fats: Nuts contain unsaturated fats also called as 'good fats'. MUFA (monounsaturated fatty acids) and PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acids) are a part of these good fats and have a great role to play in lower cholesterol levels. Nuts are one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These prevent arrhythmias (irregular rhythms of the heart) that can lead to heart attacks and may sometimes prove to be fatal.

2. Fiber: Nuts are good sources of fiber which reduces the cholesterol levels. Fiber also called roughage absorbbs water which causes frequent hunger pangs. It provides fecal bulk and steers away undigested food or toxins (bad cholesterol or free radicals) out of the body.

3. Vitamin E: It is an antioxidant which neutralizes the effect of harmful agents generated within the body. Plaque formation in the treaties diminishes the lumen of the arteries (diameter of the arteries) which leads to congestion, chest pain or a fatal heart attack. Vitamin E prevents arterial plaque formation or narrowing of the arteries.

4. Amino acids: L-Arginine is a type of amino acid present in nuts responsible for healthy arterial walls. It makes them flexible and also prevents blood clot formation.

5. Stereols: Nuts contain plant sterols which lower cholesterol levels in the body.

Nuts are easy to store, easy to eat and easy to carry food with a high nutrient density. Regular intake of nuts not only lowers bad cholesterol but also strengthens the arterial linings. Blood clot formation in the arteries is markedly reduced, so fatal heart attacks can be prevented.

In what way can nuts be included in our daily diet?

Nuts can be incorporated into our daily diet in many ways. Addition of nuts in the breakfast cereal is a good way to start the day. Sprinkling a useful of raw or dry roasted nuts on fruit salads or desserts makes them more nourishing.

Nearly 80% of a nut is fat. Although this fat is healthy, it adds up to a lot of calories. Therefore the FDA recommends eating a handful of nuts / day to reduce risk of a heart disorder. Nuts included in the diet must act as replacements of food containing saturated or trans fats like meat, junk food or whole fat dairy products. A word of caution – eating nuts is healthy but not in combination with a lot of chocolate or sugar. Salted nuts are tasty but best avoided.

Here, include raw or soaked, unsalted or un-sugared nuts in your daily diet for better results.