Go nuts over this cholesterol cure

It's a natural treatment for cholesterol so simple that it's NUTS more doctors don't recommend it.

But that could be about to change in a big way.

New research shows how almonds can succeed where billions of dollars in research has failed -- and that's by improving your HDL cholesterol safely and effectively.

HDL is the important "good" cholesterol that sweeps through and cleans up the bad stuff.

Just a handful of almonds a day can raise those levels -- and that's, of course, good news.

But let's talk more about cholesterol for a moment before I give you some even better news about nuts.

All most doctors care about is the number: how much of it you have. And often, it's the only thing researchers even bother to look at.

But cholesterol is more complicated, and the number alone isn't the only important measure.

HOW it's used is every bit as important as HOW MUCH you have.

And once again, it's almonds for the win, because the new study looks at this bigger picture and finds that these nuts not only increase HDL cholesterol, but also improve how it's used.

Eating almonds each day can raise your levels of what's known as alpha-1 HDL cholesterol particles -- by a stunning 19 percent.

If your "good" cholesterol is a sweeper of the "bad," then normal HDL particles are like a good broom... while the alpha-1 particles are more like a street cleaner. They're bigger, more powerful, and more effective.

Because they're bigger, they can haul out more of the excess LDL cholesterol that you don't want building up inside your arteries. And bigger particles pulling out more cholesterol means an improvement in how well your HDL is working, which is measured with something called HDL function.

And once again, it's almonds for the win: The study finds eating them daily will boost HDL function by 6.4 percent.

You don't have to limit yourself to almonds. Studies show nuts overall pack big-time health benefits, not only helping to control cholesterol but also fighting off major diseases including cancer.

Eating nuts has two other benefits as well.

First, nuts are filling, which makes you less likely to snack on other junk. And second, when you're eating nuts, you're NOT eating chips and candy.

It's addition by subtraction.

I should add a note of caution here: It's easy to overdo it when it comes to nuts. Not only are they easy to overeat, but there are plenty of nut options out there that are more sugar than nut.

If you want the benefits, avoid flavored and coated nuts and stick to the real deal instead... and in reasonable portions.