Walnuts are often used in holiday recipes, making an appearance in many seasonal cookies, cakes, and candied treats. But when consumed without all of the sugar, they are pretty good for you — the ideal healthy snack throughout the year.
“These tree nuts are known to satisfy our cravings for snacks because of their texture, flavor, and snack-ability of hand-to-mouth movement”, explains registered dietitian Libby Mills. They are also an excellent low-carb snack.
Nuts, in general, have many health benefits, but some studies show that walnuts offer unique nutritional properties that may help fight diseases. Despite the fact that walnut growers’ organizations finance many walnut studies, much of the data is strongly supported. For instance, The American Heart Association (AHA) has confirmed that these tree nuts are a “heart-healthy food”.
According to the registered dietitians we spoke with, nuts, including walnuts, are great for the body when consumed in moderation. Basically, they are simply one of the healthiest nuts you can have.
But let’s see some facts about this incredible snack. Walnuts come from Central Asia; today, the United States and China are the world’s biggest producers, with California producing most of America’s walnuts. Nut sales have increased over the past decade as more and more people are looking for healthier foods. According to the data, walnut production trended up by 37% from 2009 to 2019.
Walnuts’ nutritional value
These nuts are high in fat (65%) and protein (15%). As previously stated, they are a great low-carb snack. Here’s the nutritional information and Daily Values (DVs) for one ounce of walnuts (or about 14 halves):
- Calories: 185 (8% DV)
- Fiber: 1.9 g (7% DV)
- Carbs: 3.9 g (1% DV)
- Total fat: 18.5 g (27% DV)
- Protein: 4.3 g (8% DV)
- Sodium: 1 mg (0% DV)
- Potassium: 125 mg (3% DV)
These nuts may contain lots of fats, but it’s the healthy kind that provides omega-3 fatty acids. As a result, they are an excellent source of omega-3s without consuming fish. According to nutritionists, they’re also low in carbs but high in alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA), which our body converts to omega-3s. These fatty acids help prevent inflammation that can lead to cancer, heart disease, and more.
Here are 7 walnut benefits you should know about!
1. Lower cholesterol
Many studies, including one research published in 2017 in Nutrients, indicated that participants who ate a walnut-enriched diet reduced their cholesterol levels over an eight-week period. Also, a 2018 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study discovered that people who ate a nut-rich diet lowered their cholesterol.
That’s because the good fats found in walnuts can lower low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), or bad cholesterol, as well as triglycerides. In addition, manganese, another key mineral found in walnuts, helps our body to metabolize cholesterol.
Many studies suggest that a handful of these tree nuts per day is all you need to benefit from the cholesterol-lowering benefits.
2. Lower blood pressure
Walnuts’ healthy fat may also help reduce high blood pressure. A study published in 2019 in the American Heart Association Journal showed that, in addition to lowering cholesterol, participants who ate a walnut-enriched diet also had lower blood pressure. But why? Long story short, alpha-Linolenic fatty acid, a polyunsaturated fat, helps our blood vessels relax.
But that’s not all. These tree nuts also contain vitamin E, which is known to prevent plaque formation on blood vessel walls (plaque narrows blood vessels increasing blood pressure). Plus, magnesium also helps regulate blood pressure, making it a great combo. So, if you’re suffering from hypertension, consider eating a handful of walnuts per day.
3. Good for your heart
These tree nuts are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce cardiovascular diseases by decreasing blood pressure and LDL cholesterol. According to a 2016 study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, blood biomarkers of omega-3s are associated with a lower risk of a fatal heart attack.
Not only are walnuts certified as heart-healthy by the AHA, but the US Foods and Drugs Administration also made a qualified health statement saying that these nuts may lower the heart disease risk.
In addition to reducing inflammation, polyunsaturated fat is an excellent choice to replace other unhealthy fats. According to the registered dietitians we spoke with, when saturated fat is replaced with polyunsaturated fat, our risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease goes down.
Plus, walnuts are packed with protein and can help reduce the frequency of times in which we eat red meat. Research has found that consuming a portion of unprocessed or processed red meat per day increased the risk of heart disease by 12%.
4. Better blood sugar control and lower diabetes risk
Diabetes risk is closely linked to heart health. A 2020 study published in JAMA Network Open showed that the Mediterranean diet, which includes nuts, was related to a 30% lower risk of diabetes in women. So, eating walnuts as a snack is one of the best ways to sidestep diabetes.
These tree nuts may also help those who already struggle with the disease. Diabetes is known to increase the risk of heart disease, including triglycerides, high cholesterol, stroke, and high blood pressure. That’s why those with type 2 diabetes should include walnuts in their diet.
In addition, walnut oil may be great for people with diabetes as it can control their blood sugar.
5. Manage weight gain
Walnuts are pretty filling, which may help you avoid snacking on less-heathy foods. While these nuts are a calorie-rich food choice, some preliminary studies suggest that they may actually help with weight loss. That’s because they contain high amounts of multiple satiating nutrients, including protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fats. Protein and fiber are some nutrients that take longer to digest, so you’ll feel full longer.
The experts explain why these tree nuts may help with weight control: they simply keep blood sugar steady. Feeling satisfied between meals and satiated longer is the perfect match if you want to lose weight, and a handful of walnuts may be exactly what you need. Snacking on these nuts can also help you stay away from more refined, less healthy foods.
6. Less inflammation and more energy
If you need more convincing that walnuts are a healthy bomb, here is what registered dietitians also told us: they offer several nutrients that are required for metabolizing energy and macronutrients. These include thiamine, copper, folate, and manganese.
Having energy is extremely important to carry out everyday tasks. Feeling tired, on the other hand, can make you choose foods that give you an energy boost — such as refined carbohydrates and sweets — while experiencing a roller coaster of cravings.
Keeping a healthy weight is another method through which we all can prevent diabetes and heart disease. According to experts, being overweight, and especially carrying belly fat, can decrease insulin sensitivity, as well as contribute to inflammation. The more insulin-resistant you become, the greater your risk of chronic inflammation is.
7. Healthy aging and brain function
The same omega-3 fatty acids that prevent other diseases may also help keep both your body and your brain strong as you age. These nutrients have been found to be very important in the brain and neurological development of humans. Plus, other nutrients such as vitamin B6 and copper help neurotransmitters function properly. So it’s safe to say that walnuts are basically the brain’s best friend.
According to The Walnuts and Healthy Aging study, tree nuts may slow cognitive decline in older people at higher risk. Previous studies have also shown that eating walnuts daily can lead to a lower risk of decline in physical function in older folks.
You may also like 8 Surprising Things That Happen When You Cut Out Red Meat.