Eating more nuts lowers bad cholesterol and reduces heart disease risks without making you fat, new University of Otago research finds.

With National Nut Day falling on October 23, the university's department of human nutrition senior lecturer Rachel Brown said studies showed people who ate 30-60g of nuts per day reduced their risk of heart disease by 35 per cent, and bad cholesterol by 10 per cent.

Ms Brown said there is a misconception that eating more nuts would make people gain weight because of their high fat content.

"Nut eaters are often thinner, because they eat nuts instead of other higher carbohydrate snacks."


She recommended eating a variety of nuts because most were good sources of fibre, unsaturated fat and protein. Almonds and hazelnuts are high in vitamin E, peanuts are high in folate and brazil nuts are high in selenium.

She suggested eating nuts as snacks or adding to salads, stirfrys and muesli. She said making a fruit and nut mix is a good way to encourage children to eat them.

She also encouraged parents to feed children sliced or ground nuts which were easier to eat.

"Elderly people may also find it easier to eat nuts this way."

Ms Brown said there was also a misconception that nuts were too expensive but she said 30g of nuts should only cost around $1-1.50. There was research to suggest peanut butter, especially unsalted, low sugar brands, was a good, cheap way to include nuts in a healthy diet.

"It's always best to check the label first, and then choose the best one."

However, Ms Brown does not recommend eating Nutella spread, which was too high in chocolate and sugar to be healthy, nor did she recommend commercial, roasted and salted nuts.