‘I’m a Cardiologist and This Is the Nut I Eat Almost Every Single Day for Heart Health'

Nuts in bowls

There are so many factors at play when it comes to heart disease risk. Some, like genetics or age, are out of your control. But people have more control over what they put in their mouths—and diet is important when it comes to living a heart-healthy life.

"The foods we eat can have an impact on developing several risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes," explains Dr. Kevin Rabii, DO, FACC, a cardiologist with Memorial Hermann. "By understanding what foods will provide the most benefits and cause the least harm, we can keep our cardiovascular system in the best shape possible."

"Consume a diet low in fat" is standard advice. That would mean nuts—which have high levels of unsaturated fatty acids—are off the table (or at least not on it very often). However, Dr. Rabii recommends consuming high-fat foods like nuts as part of a heart-healthy diet.

"It is important to remember that fats are an essential part of our bodies," Dr. Rabii says. "However, not all fats are created equally. Nuts have higher levels of unsaturated fatty acids, which can have protective effects on our cardiovascular system and lower bad cholesterol levels."

The American Heart Association recommends eating foods with monounsaturated fats, like nuts, for good health. What's a good nut for heart health? Dr. Rabii dished the one he consumes almost daily.

Related: 'I'm a Cardiologist—This Is the Afternoon Snack I Eat Almost Every Day' 

A Cardiologist's Favorite Nut

Dr. Rabii loves almonds so much that he always keeps a container handy. "I enjoy almonds because they are an easy, healthy and delicious snack," he says. "I try to keep a small container with some almonds in my car or at work for when I am feeling hungry. There is no preparation involved, and it can keep you from choosing unhealthier snacks."

Almonds are delicious on their own. However, they're so versatile that they can be consumed at any time of the day. Think yogurt parfaits at breakfast and stir-fries or salads at lunch or dinner. Regardless of when and how you consume almonds, you'll get some vital nutrients.

"Although there are many heart-healthy nuts, almonds are considered to be one of the better choices," Dr. Rabii says. "They have high levels of protein, beneficial fats, and other nutrients including vitamin E, B vitamins, magnesium and calcium."

Related: This Is the Best Nut for Heart Health, According to Cardiologists

An ounce of almonds contains about:

  • 164 calories

  • 6 grams of protein

  • 9 grams of unsaturated fats

  • 7 milligrams of vitamin E

  • 77 milligrams of magnesium

  • 76 milligrams of calcium

A 2018 review found that eating whole almonds could be a safe, practical strategy for managing dyslipidemia, a clinical term for elevated cholesterol that puts a person at risk for clogged arteries, heart attacks and strokes. A 2020-published analysis found that consuming 42.5 grams of almonds (about a handful or two) per day could help reduce heart disease risk short-term—and maybe even long-term. A 2019 systemic review and meta-analysis found almond consumption was associated with significantly lower cholesterol levels.

Related: 10 Healthiest Nuts, According to Registered Dietitians

The No. 1 Rule When Consuming Nuts for Heart Health

We asked Dr. Rabii to recommend one nut to avoid. He didn't bite. What he did say was that portion control was vital, regardless of the nut of choice—even his favorite, almonds.

"I would not say there is a specific nut to avoid, but I would be mindful of portion control," Dr. Rabii says. "Nuts are very calorie dense, and it can be easy to overeat. This is especially true when it comes to nut butters like peanut butter."

The nutrition facts on the back will let you know what's considered a serving size. Consider pre-portioned versions if you have difficulty putting a container of your favorite nuts down (totally understandable).

Also, nuts like almonds can go the heart-unfriendly route. "You should also pay attention to how the nuts are prepared," Dr. Rabii explains. "The roasting process can often add unhealthy processed oils and seasoning can add large amounts of salt or sugar. Generally speaking, raw or dry-roasted nuts without sugary or salty flavoring will be the best choices for heart health."

Again, the labels and nutrition facts are your best friends when choosing nuts (and any food, really). A registered dietitian can help you choose heart-healthy foods, including decoding nutrition labels.

Up Next: The One Diet That Will Actually Lower Your Heart Attack Risk, According to Cardiologists


  • Dr. Kevin Rabii, DO, FACC, a cardiologist with Memorial Hermann

  • Monounsaturated fats. American Heart Association.

  • Almonds and Cardiovascular Health: A Review. Nutrients.

  • Daily almond consumption in cardiovascular disease prevention via LDL-C change in the U.S. population: a cost-effectiveness analysis. BMC Public Health.

  • Almond Consumption and Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Advanced Nutrients.

  • Nuts, Almonds. USDA.