Friday, May 30, 2008

Eat this: it will help you lose weight

Eat almonds and you'll not only lower your cholesterol, but also lose weight. That's the word from two different scientific studies that may turn the lowly almond into the hottest new health food.

Eat almonds and lose weight
A study published in the International Journal of Obesity compared two groups of people who were placed on a 1,000-calorie-a-day liquid diet. One group also ate three ounces of almonds every day. The other group was allowed to eat a mix of complex carbohydrates that included wheat crackers, baked potatoes, and air-popped popcorn.

The group that ate the almonds lost more weight--even though the calorie counts for the two groups were identical. In addition, their systolic blood pressure dropped 11 percent, compared to no change in the other group. Why is this significant? It's long been assumed that a calorie is the same no matter where it comes from. Even though the group eating the almonds consumed more fat, they lost more weight. Their Body Mass Index readings dropped 18 percent, compared with the other group's 11 percent.

Why do almonds seem to help us lose weight? In a news release announcing the findings, the researchers speculate that almonds contain a special kind of fat that may not be completely absorbed by the body and instead acts as a barrier to other types of fat.

Eat almonds and lower your cholesterol
According to a study published in the journal Metabolism, a diet high in almonds and other heart-healthy foods achieved a 35 percent decrease in LDL, or "bad," cholesterol in just two weeks. A proven heart-healthy diet that was studied in a control group, lowered cholesterol just 12 percent.

It's been known for some time that individual foods, including almonds, oatmeal, and foods high in soy protein, lower cholesterol. Now researchers from St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Canada and the University of Toronto led by Dr. David Jenkins have determined that creating a dietary plan that includes all these foods in combination is just as effective as taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as statins.

The dietary plan that is packed with all these cholesterol-lowering foods is called the Portfolio plan. In addition to almonds, it includes margarine enriched with plant sterols, oats, barley, eggplant, okra, tofu, soy milk, and meat alternatives made from soy. Almonds are the only nut included in the Portfolio diet. They contain vegetable protein, plant sterols, and fiber and are rich in vitamin E.

"What we didn't know before conducting our series of Portfolio studies is that these foods can achieve such a dramatic cholesterol-lowering effect when eaten in combination--and that it can happen so quickly," said Jenkins in a news release announcing the study, which was presented at the American Heart Association's annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.

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