Nutrition and Diet

9 Incredible Health Benefits of Walnuts

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Plus, What You Need to Know About the Walnut

amazing benefits of walnuts memeYou have most likely heard about the health benefits of eating nuts and seeds. The walnut is the king of the nuts. A nutritional powerhouse that are rich in a number of nutrients including protein, healthy fats including omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals. In this post, we shall look at the amazing health benefits of walnuts.

Walnuts are quite versatile. You can eat them as snack straight from the kernel, add them to salads and smoothies, or even as part of a wide variety of recipes.

Walnuts are also used to make walnut oil, and expensive type of oil used in salad dressings.

Sadly, walnuts rarely make the top of the list of favorite nuts. This is perhaps because of they slightly bitter taste. The taste comes from the skin, which as is usually the case with skins, contains some of the nut’s most beneficial nutrients. Plus, walnuts usually cost slightly more than other nuts.

What are Walnuts?

A walnut is a nut of the of any tree of the genus Juglans (Family Juglandaceae), particularly the Persian or English Walnuts. Technically the walnut is the seed of a stone fruit, and therefore botanically not a true nut.[1]

There are different types of walnuts including English walnuts, black walnuts, and Persian walnuts. In our case, we are referring to Persian walnuts.

The walnut kernel contains two crinkly lobes that are thought to resemble a brain. It is perhaps because this that they have been considered “brain food”, something that may not be all that far off as we shall see shortly.

What Makes Walnuts Superfood?

A superfood (or super food) is a nutrients-rich food that is considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being. Thought the term is usually not commonly used by dieticians or nutrition scientists, we use it because some foods are a notch or two above others.

The walnut contains:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). These essential fats supply a number of health benefits by themselves.
  • Plant-based protein: May support lean mass.
  • Dietary fiber: Required for digestive track and overall health.
  • Vitamins and minerals: These include vitamin B6, biotin, vitamin E, folate, calcium, zinc, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper.
  • Antioxidants: in form of powerful polyphenols, selenium, melatonin, and vitamin E.

Let’s now turn our attention to the health benefits of walnuts.

Amazing Health Benefits of Walnuts

Walnuts are one of the most beneficial nuts you can eat. Some the health benefits of walnuts include (not in any order):

1. Cancer Prevention

Walnuts may help risk of some forms of cancer including breast cancer and prostate cancer. Omega-3 fatty acids, phytosterol, and antioxidant properties may help prevent formation and/or growth of tumors and cancer. A study showed that walnut-containing diet inhibited growth rate of breast cancer, reduced mammary gland tumors, and slowed prostate, colon, and renal cancers.[2]

2. Weight Management

Most people call it weight loss, but what they actually mean fat loss. We choose to call it weight management in this case because what you want is to be a healthy weight for your age, height, and gender. While for most people the goal is to lose, some people do need to gain (and no, it’s not always a good problem to have). Walnuts can support both.

Walnuts contain healthy fats that help you to feel fuller longer, thus curbing appetite. The also support lean mass due to their protein content.

In one small study, researchers tested the brains of people who ate walnuts and were amazed at what they discovered. We talked about this study in our previous post, eating walnuts could help you lose weight. The study showed that not only do walnuts help control cravings also benefit your brain in an interesting way.

Speaking of brain, walnuts may also help boost brain function and memory. Go to the next point.

3. Brain Health and Memory

Walnuts may prevent neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. A 16-week trial by Oxford University’s Center for Evidence-Based Intervention showed that school-age students improved reading skills when they received DHA omega-3 supplements. Though Walnuts supply ALA fatty acids, some of it gets converted into DHA in the body.

A study done at the at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, found adults who eat walnuts to consistently perform better in cognitive function tests including those for memory, concentration, and information processing speed regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity.[3]

4. Control Diabetes

Walnuts can help reduce risk of type 2 diabetes. While other types of nuts also confer benefits mainly through weight management, walnuts have other properties that make them especially beneficial. One of these is that they have the highest amounts of omega-3 polyunsaturated fats of all tree nuts. They are also high in fiber and plant protein and have been shown to reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol. One study linked higher walnut consumption to reduced risk of diabetes in women.[4]

5. Heart Health

Various studies have shown that walnuts may help reduce risk of heart disease and cardiovascular disease in general. In fact, there is such ample evidence they are one of the few foods to receive qualified heart-health claim from the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Walnuts contain a hefty dose of the amino acid L-arginine which may help improve blood flow to the arteries in the heart.[5] This is why nitric oxide supplements may be good for your heart. Nitric oxide supplements contain L-arginine.

6. Bone Health

Omega-3 essential fatty acids in walnuts may help promote bone health by helping improve the absorption of calcium, while reducing calcium excretion. Walnuts contain a high amount of manganese, which has been shown to prevent osteoporosis.

7. Improve Reproductive Health in Men

Recent research suggests that regular consumption of walnuts may help improve the quality of sperm in men, including vitality, motility, and morphology. An animal study done at the University of Delaware showed that walnuts may protect sperm from lipid peroxidation, a process that can damage sperm cells.[6]

8. Powerful Antioxidants

Antioxidants help protect against certain chronic diseases of aging, including cardiovascular and neurological ailments due to their ability to control free radicals. Walnuts contain several antioxidants including selenium, melatonin, and vitamin E (in form of gamma-tocopherol).

9. Anti-Inflammatory

Anti-inflammatory is the property of a substance or treatment that reduces inflammation.[7] Walnuts have anti-inflammatory properties. Walnuts are the richest source of plant based ALA omega-3 fatty acids among nuts. These fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties. Anti-inflammatory can help reduce pain associated with conditions of inflammation such as rheumatoid arthritis.


References:

[1] Wikipedia: Walnut

[2] PubMed: Walnuts have potential for cancer prevention and treatment in mice

[3] PsychCentral: Walnuts May Improve Memory

[4] PubMed: Walnut consumption is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes in women

[5] WebMD: Arginine: Heart Benefits and Side Effects

[6] UD: Effects of a walnut-enriched diet on murine sperm and epididymis

[7] Wikipedia: Anti-inflammatory

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