Giving your heart a boost could be as simple as swapping out your snack: Eating a handful of almonds instead of a carb-heavy snack can help raise your levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, new research in the Journal of Nutrition finds.
That’s important, since higher levels of HDL can protect you from heart disease. In fact, previous research has shown that alpha-HDL levels are better at predicting heart issues than HDL levels overall.
Having more larger particles of HDL cholesterol instead of smaller ones shows that they’re more successful at pulling cholesterol from the body—which makes them bigger—and transporting it to the liver so it can be removed from the body, the researchers said in a statement.
That means it’s less likely to stick around in your blood, where it can lead to plaque buildup, potentially narrowing your arteries and causing blockages that can raise your risk of a heart attack.
One important note: The study authors disclosed that they received funding from the Almond Board of California for their research, who obviously have a vested interest in the benefits of almonds. Still, in order to be published, the study underwent peer review by unbiased sources, and passed.
Plus, it’s not the first time that nuts have been linked to heart health: In fact, a study from earlier this year linked cashew consumption with lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
So don’t be afraid to eat a handful of nuts every day—there are a bunch of health benefits to it, as we reported in the past. Just don’t pop them down the hatch indiscriminately: The 1.5 ounces of almonds eaten in the study had 253 calories, so make sure you’re portioning them out beforehand. (For eating plans that will help you fry fat, try The MetaShred Diet from Men’s Health.)