Walnuts are one of the oldest tree nuts, dating back to 7000 BC. Recently, they have started to make a comeback. All nuts are extremely beneficial to the diet, but walnuts are especially nutritious. They are the highest in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential omega-3 source that functions as an antioxidant in the body. The best part about consuming a real, whole food such as walnuts is that all the parts of the food work together to yield the best results in the body. The phytonutrients, micronutrients, ALA and fiber work in conjunction to produce amazing health benefits such as improved risk factors with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some cancers, and cognitive impairment.
A 20 year study was just completed that linked walnut consumption to lower LDL (LDL cholesterol is bad) cholesterol levels in men. Additional studies have shown that when blood cholesterol levels are lowered, blood pressure drops as well. Consuming just one serving of walnuts per day can help improve cardiovascular health.
Over a 10 year period, women who ate at least 2 servings of walnuts per week were 24% less likely to develop diabetes. Across the board, all women who ate the walnuts were at a lower weight; exercised more and ate an overall healthier diet. Research showed that the polyunsaturated fats found in walnuts may have helped with insulin resistance and therefore reduced incidence of diabetes.
Walnuts contain many cancer fighting compounds such as carotenoids, phytosterols and polyphenols. Animal studies have shown that these protect against colon, breast and prostate cancer. The compounds slow cancer cell growth, induce cancer cell death and stop blood vessel growth of cancer cells.
Some say that the shape of a food is often linked to what area of the body it can help improve. Have you ever noticed that the shape of a walnut slightly resembles a brain? Interestingly, studies have shown strong evidence to support the fact that memory was improved when consuming just 1 oz of walnuts. Some studies even demonstrated that the compounds in walnuts may help fight dementia and some signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
Walnuts are definitely a nut that you should start incorporating into your diet. However, especially when watching your weight, monitor the serving size. A 1-oz serving (about 14 halves) is 185 calories. However, there are also 4.3 g of protein, 2 g of fiber, 2.5 g of ALA and 11 g of linoleic acid. Walnuts can be added to a salad, or eaten on their own. It can also be ground up and used in dips or sauces. Walnut oil is also a great way to incorporate this healthy fat into your diet.
Source: Antinoro, Linda, RD. “Walnuts.” Today’s Dietitian (2013): 74-76. Print.