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Health & Nutrition

Eat Your Heart Out

Why almonds can be a heart-smart** food choice according to Registered Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert


There are around 7.6 million people living with heart and circulatory diseases in the UK,1 but some groups are unaware that heart disease could affect them.

New research from California Almonds found that both women and Millennial men don’t view heart disease as a risk despite it being a health concern for all genders and ages. The research found that:

  • 84% of British women are unaware that heart disease is the #1 cause of death for women in the UK.2
  • 68% of Millennial men are unconcerned about developing a heart condition in the future,3 despite it being the #1 cause of death for men in England and Wales4

This disconnect goes beyond awareness and whilst many modifiable risk factors of heart disease, such as high cholesterol and obesity, are linked to diet, only 1 in 5 women think poor diet is a key factor in developing heart-related illnesses and only 20% of Millennial men know that diet could make them vulnerable to heart failure.

Diet is one of the easiest places to start when it comes to protecting your heart health and we’ve teamed up with Registered Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert to discuss how we can start eating heart smart.

“Making meaningful changes to our diet is vital when it comes to heart health. If your diet is made up primarily of saturated fat, trans-fats and salt, with a low intake of fruits, vegetables and fish, this could increase your risk of heart disease. Understanding that not all fats are created equal is essential when it comes to cholesterol, yet 61% of women are unsure of the difference between good and bad fat and 30% of Millennial men wrongly associate red meat and cheese with good heart health. Learning what’s in your food and choosing foods that can support healthy cholesterol levels is key.”

Rhiannon Lambert

Why is diet so important when it comes to heart health?

High cholesterol is a key risk factor for developing heart-related illnesses and is influenced by our diet. Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is produced naturally in the liver and also comes from the food we eat. We do need some cholesterol, but too much of the non- high-density lipoproteins causes build up in blood vessels, resulting in their narrowing, increasing your risk of heart attack or stroke. Having a diet high in saturated fat, and having too much body fat, which can result from a diet high in fat and sugar, can cause high cholesterol.5

What changes can I make to my diet?

The good news is that you don’t need to make drastic changes to your diet to make a difference. Smart swaps and small sustainable changes can have an impact and understanding what’s in your food is a good place to start.

For example, there are two main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated fat. Eating too much saturated fat, found in foods such as processed and fatty meat, cakes, pastries, butter, cream etc.  can increase your blood cholesterol.  Trans fats (such as hydrogenated fats), which can be found in confectionary and fast foods, should also be limited.

Instead, try swapping them for foods containing unsaturated (healthier) fats such as oily fish, nuts such as almonds, seeds, avocados and vegetable oils/ spreads. So instead of snacking on biscuits and crisps, why not opt for a handful (30g) of almonds, which are packed with healthy saturated fats.

There are other handy ways to reduce your total fat intake, so instead of frying or roasting, opt for grilling, boiling, steaming, poaching or microwaving. You can also do this by choosing leaner cuts of meat and dairy products that are lower in fat.6

Including a variety of fruit, vegetables, legumes and wholegrains into your diet can help to lower your cholesterol levels. This way of eating is very similar to the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to have protective effects on heart health.7

How do almonds support heart health?

There are over two decades of research showing that almonds can help maintain a healthy heart and healthy cholesterol levels. Almonds contain the fatty acid linoleic acid which contributes to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels.* They’ve also been found to significantly reduce the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol which can build up inside our blood vessels without negatively impacting “good” LDL cholesterol levels.8

Being overweight and carrying weight around your middle is another risk factor for heart disease. Research has found that eating nutrient-rich almonds will not only not impact your weight,9 but they may also help with belly fat reduction. A study has shown that a daily snack of 42g of almonds, instead of a high-carbohydrate snack with equal calories, as part of a cholesterol-lowering diet, helped reduce belly fat and significantly improved cholesterol levels.10

How can I add more almonds into my diet?

The great news is that almonds are tasty and versatile snack so can be added into a range of sweet and savoury dishes. Of course, they can be eaten on their own as an easy snack for on the go.  All you need is a 30g handful and you can even try throwing in some extra flavours and spices, such as paprika or cinnamon, to add some variety.

But that’s not all! Almonds are a great addition to breakfast time. Why not sprinkle them over porridge or stir through Greek yoghurt for extra fibre. Or for a pre-prepared breakfast, they’re delicious in breakfast bars. For a lunch time idea, Rhiannon Lambert uses them in her Almond Nourish Bowl; simple yet delicious. For dinner why not get creative and make an Almond pesto to stir though pasta or a Noodle Bowl with Spicy Almond Sauce for an Asian twist

Did You Know

We’ve partnered with various chefs to develop nutritious, inspirational recipes and snack ideas using almonds in all their versatile forms. We have recipes for a range of levels from home cooks to food professionals. Explore more almond recipes here.

** They are good for your health with fibre (12.5 / 4.0 g per 100g / 28g serving) and 15 essential nutrients including (per 100g / 30g serving): magnesium (270 / 81 mg), potassium (733 / 220 mg), and vitamin E (25.6 / 7.7 mg).

1 The British Heart Foundation

2 Almond Board of California consumer research, January 2021 and Heart Research Institute UK, Women and Heart Disease

3 Almond Board of California consumer survey, May 2021

4 Office for National Statistics, Deaths Registered in England and Wales: 2019, published 1 July 2020 and British Heart Foundation, UK Factsheet, March 2021, p6

5 The British Heart Foundation

6 NHS- Lower your cholesterol

7 Rosato V, Temple NJ, La Vecchia C, Castellan G, Tavani A, Guercio V. Mediterranean diet and cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Eur J Nutr. 2019 Feb;58(1):173-191. doi: 10.1007/s00394-017-1582-0. Epub 2017 Nov 25. PMID: 29177567.

8 Musa-Veloso K, Paulionis L, Poon T, Lee HL. The effects of almond consumption on fasting blood lipid levels: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Journal of Nutritional Science 2016; 5(e34):1-15. A 2016 meta-analysis and systematic review examined the breadth of research on almonds and heart health. The analysis of 18 published randomized controlled trials with a total of 837 participants showed significant favourable effects of almonds on total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, with no change in HDL cholesterol levels. The effects of almonds on total cholesterol were dose-dependent, with a larger almond intake resulting in a greater reduction in total cholesterol. The evidence strongly indicates that almonds should be encouraged as part of a healthy diet to help maintain healthy blood lipid levels and reduce the risk of heart disease

9 Tan, S-Y. and Mattes, RD. Appetitive, dietary and health effects of almonds consumed with meals or as snacks: a randomized, controlled trial. Eur J Clin Nutr 2013; 67(11): 1205–1214.

10 Berryman CE, West SG, Fleming JA, Bordi PL, Kris-Etherton PM. Effects of Daily Almond Consumption on Cardiometabolic Risk and Abdominal Adiposity in Healthy Adults with Elevated LDL-Cholesterol: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Jour of the Amer Heart Assn 2014; 4:e000993