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ROCHESTER, Minn. — High-calorie, high-fat nuts are often on the "bad" list for dieters and those who are working to manage their weight.

It's time to reconsider, according to the June issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter. Nuts are packed with heart-healthy nutrients. With their significant nutritional value, they can be judiciously included in any diet as a protein substitute or a replacement for other, less healthy snacks.

Nuts are high in fat, which is why even small portions are high in calories. Consider that 33 almonds have 250 calories and 22 grams of fat. Just nine Brazil nuts have 279 calories and 28 grams of fat. But the majority of that fat is monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, the types that are likely key players in positive cardiovascular effects. Recent research shows that nuts:

  • Lower cholesterol. Nuts are high in fiber, and diets high in fiber help lower cholesterol. Multiple studies have shown a relationship between regularly eating nuts and a cholesterol-lowering effect.
  • Decrease the risk of coronary artery disease or death due to it. A pooled analysis of four studies found that those who ate nuts more than four times a week had a 37 percent reduced risk of death from the disease, compared to those who never or rarely ate nuts.
  • Reduce body weight or at any rate, do not add to it. Multiple studies have shown a neutral or inverse relationship between nut consumption and weight. Eating nuts, a satisfying fatty food, appears to diminish the need to eat.

The American Heart Association recommends eating four servings of unsalted, dry roasted nuts each week. A typical serving size is 1.5 ounces, a small handful of nuts.

Mayo Clinic Health Letter is an eight-page monthly newsletter of reliable, accurate and practical information on today's health and medical news. To subscribe, please call 800-333-9037 (toll-free), extension 9771, or visit Mayo Clinic Health Letter Online.