What you need to know about Super Snack

February 26, 2024 – For anyone crazy about nuts, there’s some good news: It turns out that certain types – walnuts to be exact – could hold an important key to reversing several risk factors for what we called metabolic syndrome.

These risk factors for metabolic syndrome include high blood sugar levels, unhealthy levels of bad fats (triglycerides), low blood levels of “good cholesterol” (HDL), and a large waistline. Together, they can lead to heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

The link between what we eat and disease risk isn’t exactly new: researchers and doctors have long known that diet and lifestyle are key to preventing disease, especially when it comes to disease. These are diseases affecting heart health. But it appears that replacing fatty, salty and sugary snacks with raw or dry-roasted nuts (hazelnuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, pecans, walnuts, macadamia and almonds) can modify the factors risk of metabolic syndrome. What’s more, these changes occur in a relatively short period of time, especially among young adults aged 22 to 39, according to one study. recent study.

“Compared to adults who only ate high-carbohydrate snacks (unsalted pretzels, graham crackers, animal crackers, and cereal/granola bars), women who ate nuts saw their waist circumference decrease without changing their physical activity or their caloric intake. Men saw a greater change in their blood insulin levels,” said Heidi Silver, RD, PhD, study co-author and professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

“Overall, both men and women saw a decrease in their overall metabolic syndrome score and a reduction in risk,” she noted, explaining that the results in both groups were primarily due to an increase consumption of unsaturated fats compared to saturated fats.

“We have the ability to oxidize unsaturated fats more quickly and more completely than saturated fats, which means that if we oxidize them, we don’t store them,” Silver said.

Life changes, food exchanges

Risk factors for metabolic syndrome have long been considered a problem in older, not younger, adults. But today’s statistics paint a harsh reality: metabolic syndrome now slightly affects more than 1 in 5 people aged 20 to 39.

“Often we see patients once they develop heart disease,” said Sadiya Khan MD, a preventative cardiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. “But we really want to emphasize the importance of prevention when lifestyle habits are formed and cemented and when many changes occur in life.”

Khan highlighted many factors during the young adult years that increase this risk, including diabetes during pregnancy (Gestational Diabetes). She explained that although gestational diabetes was once considered an isolated event, more and more people are affected: not only does it affect 10% of pregnant women, but it also increases the risk of full-blown diabetes tenfold. within a year. decade. The risk often extends to partners who, in addition to being parents, also face the various life changes that occur during early adulthood.

“It’s the really important life transitions — attending college, leaving the nest, having kids — that build heart-healthy habits,” Khan said.

“Intervention needs to start young,” agreed Julia Zumpano, a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic Human Nutrition Center in Ohio. Zumpano, who specializes in heart disease, explained that although young adults are not traditionally targeted, “no matter how young you are, I think you should eat nuts and monounsaturated fats; there is an impact at 20 years, and it is noticeable in such a short time.”

Dan Cummins, a 36-year-old former Army veteran, saidthat he gained nearly 200 pounds after leaving the army.

“It was stress and reactive eating due to life situations,” he recalls. A self-described “non-cook,” Cummins said it’s become easier to “order a pizza, or grab a fast food place or a bag of chips.” Today, Cummins has lost nearly 80 pounds, but more importantly, he said his Type 2 diabetes is under control and his blood sugar is reduced by more than half. He said several things led him to make these changes: addressing mental health issues, seeking Zumpano’s help and going crazy.

“I have a bag of pistachios and almonds at home and I keep two bags of nuts at work,” he said. “Having it on hand is easy; I don’t have to do anything, and there’s no prep work, so there’s no excuse. »

Nuts “satiate the fullness of the stomach,” he said.

Luckily for Kelsey Lovik, a 30-year-old master of social work student at Western Washington University in Bellingham, her love affair with nuts began when she was a child.

“I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and they always had happy hour. I couldn’t have cocktails (they made him a Shirley Temple), so I sat and ate the bowl of nuts that was on the table.

Today, this healthy habit has remained.

“It’s about convenience,” says Lovik, who also encourages her children to eat nuts. “They’re pretty easy to get, and they’re the easiest snack to have.”

“They don’t need to be heated or kept cold. If I’m between meals or if the 3 p.m. crisis hits at work, I grab a small bag of cashews,” she said .

Count nuts, not calories

Nuts have long had a bad rap because they are high in calories. But they are also full of nutrients.

“There is a myth about eating nuts and potential weight gain,” Silver said. “When we compare them to typical snacks, we not only get a better fat profile with more unsaturated fats, but we also get a rich source of protein, fiber, certain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Thus, another potential benefit is that nut consumption could improve overall diet quality. »

Ready to switch from chips to nuts? There are a few things to keep in mind. Look for a variety of raw or dry-roasted nuts and read the label to make sure they don’t contain added oils or sugar. Unsalted nuts are best. Nut butters are acceptable, as long as they do not contain other oils that could alter their fatty acid profile.

Finally, “the most important thing is to make sure you’re not trying to fill yourself up with nuts, but rather have a small handful to help you maintain a balanced diet,” Khan advised.

Corrections: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Kelsey Lovik is a doctoral student at Western Washington University. She is a master’s student in social work. Additionally, Vanderbilt University Medical Center is in Nashville, not Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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