By Vee Bright
A rich source of omega-3′s, walnuts are one of the best ways to get these essential fatty acids, which play a key role in heart health. Countless studies show that omega-3 fatty acids lower triglyceride levels and increase "good" HDL cholesterol. You get 90 percent of the recommended daily value of omega-3 fats from 1/4 cup of walnuts. "Omega-3s give rise to anti-inflammatory molecules known as resolvins and protectins, both of which ward off blood clots that can trigger stroke and heart attack," explains Shane Ellison, author of The Hidden Truth about Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs.
Walnuts also contain high levels of the amino acid L-arginine, which converts into nitric oxide in the body and keeps blood vessels smooth and relaxed. Individuals with hypertension often have trouble maintaining normal nitric oxide levels, so walnuts are a great addition to their diets.
Sixty percent of the fatty acids in almonds are the monounsaturated kind, a healthful fat shown to reduce circulating levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol. Almonds are also chock-full of vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that protects against cognitive decline and several cancers. The fiber in almond skins may exert a pre-biotic effect and increase the beneficial bacteria in the gut to improve digestion and bolster immune defense. To keep your calorie intake in check, limit yourself to 1 ounce (about 25 almonds) per serving.