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One Important Simple Food to Add to Your Low-Carb Diet

Tim Boyer's picture
Walnuts benefit cholesterol, blood pressure and prostate cancer

If you are on a low-carb diet, research shows that adding one particular nut daily can help maintain your good cholesterol levels.


So, you’ve decided to stick to a low-carb diet to lose weight. Good for you! But did you know that one problem with a low carb diet that focuses on keeping you on only healthy mono-saturated fats such as from canola oil and olive oil can still leave you with lowered good cholesterol levels?

“Many diets have said it is okay to eat healthy fats and emphasize olive and canola oils,” said Cheryl Rock, PhD, principal investigator of a new study published this week in the Journal of the American Heart Association. “What we found is that a diet high in healthy oils did lower lipids, but it also lowered both good and bad cholesterol.”

According to her recent study, Dr. Rock and her research team found that eating walnuts daily made a significant difference in good versus bad cholesterol levels when comparing dieters on either high-fat/low-carb or low-fat/high-carb diets—especially for those dieters who are insulin sensitive.

In the study, 245 overweight and obese women were enrolled in a 1-year behavioral weight loss intervention and randomly assigned to 1 of 3 study groups: a low-fat (20% energy), high-carbohydrate (65% energy) diet; a low-carbohydrate (45% energy), high-fat (35% energy) diet; or a walnut-rich, high-fat (35% energy), low-carbohydrate (45% energy) diet.

What the researchers found was that by the first six months of the study, weight loss results among all 3 groups were approximately the same (about 8% lost from their initial baseline measurements when the study began), although the insulin-sensitive participants lost more weight with a lower fat, higher carbohydrate diet versus a higher fat, lower carbohydrate diet.

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However, the most striking finding of all was that the walnut-rich diet had the most impact on cholesterol levels by decreasing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) bad cholesterol, and increasing beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) good cholesterol. The high-fat, low-carb group―which consumed monounsaturated fats―did not experience the same beneficial effects as the low-carb walnut-rich diet, which featured polyunsaturated fatty acids!

“This weight loss may not put these women at their ideal weight, but it [the lost weight with the addition of walnuts] made a significant reduction in their risk of cardiovascular and other diseases,” said Dr. Rock.

The researchers concluded that among the 3 diet groups, insulin-sensitive women lost more weight with a lower fat, higher carbohydrate diet versus a higher fat, lower carbohydrate diet; and, that a walnut-rich, higher fat diet results in the most favorable changes in lipid levels.

For more about the power of eating walnuts for health, here is some info on how walnuts can lower blood pressure and may help men prevent prostate cancer.


UC San Diego Health press release “Cholesterol Levels Improve with Weight Loss and Healthy Fat-Rich Diet

Effects of Diet Composition and Insulin Resistance Status on Plasma Lipid Levels in a Weight Loss Intervention in Women” Journal of the American Heart Association 2016 Jan 25; 5(1); T. Le et al.