Today is Thanksgiving. And I'm thankful that even a mainstream doc like David Katz from the Yale University School of Medicine has admitted the obvious: You can lower your cholesterol without taking statin drugs. In fact, according to Dr. Katz's new research, you may be able to lower your cholesterol, even if you're diabetic, by eating one of my favorite snack foods.

Preventing heart disease if you've got diabetes

If you're diabetic, your blood sugar is constantly on your mind. And rightfully so. But what about heart disease?

Heart disease is a major complication of diabetes. In fact, if you've got diabetes you're just as likely to suffer a heart attack as someone who's already had one. The build-up of plaque in your arteries is usually to blame.

So how do you guard against a heart attack if you've already got diabetes?

Without blinking an eye, most doctors will write you a prescription for a statin drug. And sure, these drugs can lower your cholesterol. But they can also cause permanent muscle damage as well as other serious side effects.

Plus, in one major study, men and women who took statin drugs died of a heart attack just as often as those who didn't take them (but just took better care of themselves).

More than one way to skin a cat
If you've got diabetes and high cholesterol, you don't have to resort to statin drugs. In fact, Dr. Katz found that diabetics could potentially lower their "overall cardiac risk" just by eating walnuts.

Dr. Katz and his team asked 24 middle-aged diabetics to take part in their study. Half of them maintained their established eating pattern. The other half ate a small handful of walnuts (56 grams) each day for eight weeks.

After eight weeks, the walnut eaters experienced:

  • Improved cholesterol levels
  • Improved blood sugar
  • Improved health of blood vessels

What makes walnuts so great for your heart? Well, for starters, they contain omega-3 fatty acids, similar to the kind you find in fish.

But isn't fish oil better for your heart?

Fish like salmon and tuna contain powerful omega-3 fatty-acids called EPA and DHA. Without a doubt, these nutrients play a vital role in protecting your heart. Even the American Heart Association admits as much. According to their web site:

"Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids decrease risk of arrhythmias, which can lead to sudden cardiac death; decrease triglyceride levels; decrease growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque; and lower blood pressure (slightly)."

But walnuts (as well as flaxseeds and chia seeds) contain a lesser-known nutrient called ALA that gets converted into EPA and DHA in the body. And ALA seems to play a unique role in regulating cholesterol in the body. In fact, in another study, published earlier this year, walnuts lowered cholesterol better than fish in healthy individuals.

Now, I'm not saying to forget the fish. Rather, just toss in a handful of walnuts, too. Keep unsalted, organic walnuts in your kitchen. Sprinkle them on salads or your oatmeal. Just make sure to get a handful a day to support healthy cholesterol levels.