Heart health and the benefits of Macadamias

Heart health and the benefits of Macadamias

Macadamias are not only a rich and delicious snack, but research suggests that they may also assist with your heart health (1). Macadamias have many benefits such as being rich in monounsaturated fats, nutrient dense, packed with fibre, and naturally low in sugar and carbs. However, today we will be focussing on the beneficial fats within macadamias.

To understand why the fats found in macadamias are beneficial let’s unpack the who what where and why’s. Fats can be classified into three categories – good fats, bad fats and the inbetweeners. Good fats are called unsaturated fats that consist out of monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Whereas bad fats are trans fats which are synthetically made by humans (does not occur naturally somewhere on earth). Lastly, we also have saturated fats that fall in the middle of good and bad fats. All three fats namely unsaturated, saturated and trans fats consist out of a similar chemical structure. The chemical structure is always a combination of carbon and hydrogen atoms. They are only differentiated by 2 aspects: (1) the length and shape of their carbon chains and (2) the amount of hydrogen atoms within the chain.

The next step would be to look at all three types of fats individually to understand the benefits of unsaturated fats:

Trans fats (Bad Fats):
Trans fats are synthetically created as a by-product from a process called hydrogenation. This is as man-made and unnatural as you can possibly get. The process consists out of adding hydrogen to vegetable oil which turn the liquid into a solid form at room temperature assisting in rancidity to prolong the shelf life. Trans fats do not have ANY health benefits and no level of consumption is safe, not even a little bit is okay. The reason being that trans fats increase the level of harmful LDL cholesterol in your blood but also reduces the valuable HDL cholesterol.

Saturated fats (In- between fats)
Saturated fats are mostly found in meat products or animal products such as eggs. However, they are also found in cocoa butter, palm oil, and coconut oil. Saturated fat refers to the carbon atom being surrounded by many hydrogen atoms; therefore, the carbon atom is saturated with hydrogen. The issue with a diet rich in saturated fats is that it causes the harmful LDL cholesterol in the body to increase upwards. The result is arteries blocking, resulting in unnecessary strain on your heart.

Unsaturated fats (Good fats)
Whereas unsaturated fats are known for being heart healthy or good fats. The main difference between saturated and unsaturated fats being unsaturated fats have fewer hydrogen atoms attached to their carbon chains. Unsaturated fats can easily be identified through products that are usually liquids at room temperature and mostly found in plant-based products such as nuts, avocados, and olive oil. Unsaturated fats can be further broken down into two categories namely, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. Macadamia nuts are high in monounsaturated fats.

Monounsaturated fats
Monounsaturated fats consist out of a single carbon to carbon double bond. They are liquid at room temperature because they have fewer hydrogen atoms than saturated fats as well as a slight bend at the double bond. Monounsaturated fats are found in sources such as macadamias nuts, olive oil, peanut oil and many more. They are considered beneficial towards a healthy lifestyle. Because when consuming more monounsaturated fats and less saturated fats your bad cholesterol might be lowered and therefore beneficial for your heart health.

The good news is that macadamia nuts contain 17.25% monounsaturated fats, which is remarkable news for your heart and arteries. Monounsaturated fats can assist with heart health when saturated fats are limited or replaced with monounsaturated fats. Since research advises that by incorporating macadamias nuts in your diet you may lower your bad cholesterol (LDL) significantly (1,2).

Therefore, by eating as little as 8-42 grams of these sphere-shaped nuts daily, your LDL cholesterol could be lowered (1) and results in keeping your heart healthy. Consequently, we can conclude that not all fats are bad for you, our bodies need some fat from food to assist us in absorbing vitamins and minerals, building cell membranes, inflammation and many more. Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information.

1. Griel, A.E., Cao, Y., Bagshaw, D.D., Cifelli, A.M., Holub, B. and Kris-Etherton, P.M., 2008. A macadamia nut-rich diet reduces total and LDL-cholesterol in mildly hypercholesterolemic men and women. The Journal of nutrition, 138(4), pp.761-767.
2. Garg ML, Blake RJ, Wills RB. Macadamia nut consumption lowers plasma total and LDL cholesterol levels in hypercholesterolemic men. J Nutr. 2003 Apr;133(4):1060-3. doi: 10.1093/jn/133.4.1060. PMID: 1267291

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