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Interesting Health Study About Almonds

The temptations of the holiday season seem unavoidable. Store displays and magazine covers bombard the senses with a smorgasbord of treats, usually mouth-watering caloric confections that derive much of their palatability-and calories-from fat. As families reunite to celebrate, they break bread and, too often, all dietary resolve. Well-meaning neighbors and coworkers can aggravate the situation with offerings of nuts and chocolates.

The good news is that not all of this high-fat fare is necessarily bad for one's health. In fact, some of the treats could serve as a springboard to a healthier diet, a variety of researchers believe. The trick-and, of course, there is a trick-is not only to sample these foods in moderation but also to steer toward those that derive a large proportion of their calories from monounsaturated fats.

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While the best-known source is olive oil, monounsaturated fats also predominate in the rapeseed-derived canola oil. Neither of these, however, sends out the same siren call as a third blockbuster source of these fats: nuts.

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Unlike liquid oils, nuts-which can derive up to 80 percent of their calories from fat-appeal as snacks, glorify as garnishes, and add texture to stir-fries and pasta.  Almonds furnish 57 to 83 percent of their fats as monounsaturates.

Almonds deliver at least one quarter of their fats as monounsaturates.  For years, the conventional wisdom has held that all high-fat foods promote artery-clogging plaque. Though the warning still holds for recipes that depend on butter, cream, or other rich sources of saturated fats, a different rule now appears to apply to foods rich in monounsaturated. Indeed, a host of new dietary trials indicates that high-mono-fat diets lower the risk of cardiovascular disease-in some cases, even more effectively than do the standard low-fat diets that the American Heart Association (AHA) advocates.

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The Mediterranean Diet and It's Use of Almonds

Such findings could transform the image of crowd-pleasing nuts from a sinful indulgence to a healthful staple.

In 1980, a now-famous, seven-country comparison of diet and heart risk concluded that
Mediterranean cuisines noted for their reliance on olive oil are especially healthful.
Because many Mediterranean recipes include almonds, Gene A. Spiller, a clinical nutritionist and the director of the Health Research and Studies Center in Los Altos, Calif., began investigating almonds' potential contribution to the phenomenon.

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Along with colleagues at the Universities of Toronto and Verona, Italy, Spiller showed 6 years ago that substituting almonds and almond oil for other fats in a persons's diet over a 9-week period could lower both total and (LDL) cholesterol, the so called bad cholesterol.

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