11 Proven Benefits of Walnuts

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated - Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS, RD)

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The health benefits of walnuts are many and include reduction of LDL (bad) cholesterol, prevention of inflammation, improvement in metabolism, weight management, and diabetes control. Walnuts can also benefit brain health and act as a mood booster.

What are Walnuts?

Walnuts are edible seeds from the trees of Juglans genus. They are round, single-seeded fruits of the walnut tree. The fruit and seed of walnut are enclosed in a thick, inedible husk. The shell of the fruit that encloses the kernel is hard and two-halved.

Walnuts have a delicious taste and crunchy texture, which is why they are used in many desserts and baked goods such as cookies, cakes, granola, cereals, energy bars, and the ever-popular banana walnut bread. Ground walnuts and walnut flour are also used for baking. Walnuts are packed with essential fatty acids and produce an oil that is a rich emollient and is known for anti-aging properties.

The nuts have always been considered as ‘brain food’ perhaps because the surface structure of the walnut has a wrinkled appearance, like that of the brain. Due to this reason, they have been considered as a symbol of intelligence, leading to the belief by some that they actually increase one’s intellect!

While this is not exactly true, recent studies have shown that the consumption of these seeds does help in promoting brain function. There are two types; black walnuts and the brown variety. We shall be talking about the brown walnut in detail.

Watch Video: 6 Great Benefits Of Walnuts

Nutrition Facts

Nuts, walnuts, glazed
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]6.28
Energy [kcal]500
Protein [g]8.28
Total lipid (fat) [g]35.71
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]47.59
Fiber, total dietary [g]3.6
Sugars, total [g]32.14
Calcium, Ca [mg]71
Iron, Fe [mg]1.29
Potassium, K [mg]232
Sodium, Na [mg]446
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]0
Vitamin A, IU [IU]0
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]3.57
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]5.36
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]25
Fatty acids, total trans [g]0
Cholesterol [mg]0
Sources include : USDA

Nutritional Value of Walnuts

According to the USDA Nutrition Data, walnuts are a rich source of vitamin C, B vitamins (vitamin B6, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and folate), vitamin E, as well as minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and zinc.

Walnuts are 65 percent fat by weight and 15 percent protein. They are richer than most nuts in polyunsaturated fats (often considered the “good” fats) and have a relatively high amount of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Walnuts are also particularly rich in an omega-6 fatty acid called linoleic acid.

Walnuts contain other essential nutrients such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, as well as phytosterols. They are a good source of dietary fiber and antioxidants (ellagic acid, catechin, melatonin, and phytic acid). All of these beneficial nutrients contribute to walnuts being thought of by many as ‘power food’.

Health Benefits of Walnuts

Let’s find out some of the major health benefits of walnuts.

Improve Heart Health

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), walnuts are rich in omega 3 fatty acids that have been shown to help improve heart health. Fresh raw walnuts are rich in amino acid l-arginine, and monounsaturated fatty acids (72%) like oleic acid.

It also contains essential fatty acids (EFAs), such as linoleic acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and arachidonic acids. The inclusion of these nuts in any diet can help prevent coronary heart diseases by favoring a healthy lipid supply.

A study published in the journal Metabolism suggests that consuming walnuts significantly lowered the LDL (bad) cholesterol and increased the level of HDL (good) cholesterol in the participants. Researchers at the University of Munich Medical Center, Germany, found that consuming walnuts also reduced ApoB levels, a marker used to evaluate the risk for cardiovascular diseases.

Manage Weight

Walnuts help you feel full, which means that they increase satiety. Researchers from Harvard Medical School found that people who consumed shakes containing walnuts had an increased level of fullness during the day as compared to people who had placebo shakes. This study did, however, utilize a small size, so more research is needed to confirm these results. Regardless, the rich source of protein and fiber makes walnuts a healthy snacking option, especially for vegetarians.

Walnuts on a wooden table

Boost Bone Health

Walnuts contain copper and phosphorus both of which are essential in maintaining optimal bone health. Essential fatty acids found in walnuts secure the bone health of the body. They may increase calcium absorption and deposition while reducing urinary calcium excretion.

Brain Health

Walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can help improve memory and focus. Omega-3 fatty acids, coupled with iodine and selenium ensure optimum functioning of the brain. These nuts are included in the Mediterranean diet and they are also known to give relief from cognitive disorders like dementia and epilepsy.

Antioxidant Power

Walnuts rank second on the list of ‘antioxidant-rich’ foods, just under blackberries. The rare,  powerful antioxidants such as quinone juglone, the tannin tellimagrandin, and the flavonol morin present in walnuts have remarkable free-radical scavenging power. These antioxidants also help prevent liver damage due to chemicals.

Improve Metabolism

Walnut, along with EFAs, provide minerals like manganese, copper, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium to the body. These minerals help contribute to metabolic activities like growth and development, sperm generation, digestion, and nucleic acid synthesis.

Control Diabetes

People suffering from diabetes may have walnuts on a regular basis since they contain a high amount of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Researchers say that the intake of nuts is inversely proportional to the risk of developing type-II diabetes. However, make sure to eat this nut in moderation.

Cleanse Digestive System

This superfood helps to clean the internal digestive tract, aiding in detoxification by removal of toxins and waste. It also cures constipation. Lead researcher Lauri Byerley, associate professor at the Louisiana State University in the United States, said in her research report that walnuts help the gut and have prebiotic properties. Eating walnuts daily increased LactobacillusRuminococcus, and Roseburia which improved the gut function. 

Improve Male Fertility

Walnuts have a positive impact on male fertility by improving sperm quality, quantity, vitality, and motility, noted by a study published in the journal Biology of Reproduction led by Wendie Robbins, Fielding School of Public Health, University of California.

Health benefits of walnut - infographic

Reduce Inflammation

The polyphenolic compounds and phytochemical substances found in walnuts reduce the effects of inflammation in the body. This has beneficial implications in a number of realms, including cardiovascular and oncology health.

Pregnant Women

Listen up, pregnant mommies! The rich source of vitamin B-complex present in roasted unsalted walnuts is essential for fetal growth.

Regulate Sleep

This nut makes melatonin, a hormone that helps induce and regulate sleep. Melatonin is present in the bio-available form in these nuts. In a research report published in the 2005 journal Nutritionlaboratory rats who were fed walnuts showed an increase in blood melatonin concentrations as compared to rats who were fed a controlled diet without the nuts. So, it’s best to add walnuts to your dinner dishes to ensure a good, restful sleep.

Mood Booster

It is thought that insufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids (contained in walnuts and a few other foods), may cause hyperactivity, irritability, and tantrums. Supplementing a child’s diet with these nuts compensates the deficit in EFAs and may help alleviate their mood. This is even applicable to people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), who are battling depression and stress after a trauma.

Skin Care

The vitamin E content in walnuts helps in maintaining and protecting the skin from harmful free radicals. It also helps in preventing wrinkles and dry skin. Regular use of walnut-based products lightens the dark circles under eyes. Walnut scrubs act as a natural exfoliator and help keep the skin young and fresh.

Astringent Properties

Walnut oils have significant astringent properties. Toasted walnut oil has a rich, nutty flavor that helps bring aroma and flavor to the food. This flavor gives a pleasant taste, but only when it is used in moderation. It is used as a carrier/base oil in various therapies like aromatherapy, and massage therapy, as well as in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry.

Boost Immunity

Regular consumption of natural shelled walnuts helps in building a strong immune system, which can prevent the onset of various diseases. The rich source of antioxidants, as discussed above, is responsible for this benefit.

Hair Care

Walnuts are also responsible for healthy hair, as the high amounts of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and antioxidants strengthen hair follicles and make scalp dandruff free. They also provide thicker, longer and stronger hair. You could also use the husk of walnuts as a natural highlighter.

Fungal Infections

Fungal infections on the skin or inside the body, use of black walnut may help you get rid of it all.

Side Effects

On average, seven to nine walnuts per serving are considered safe for consumption. However, if you eat nuts in excess, there are some side effects you may experience, as follows:

  • Allergy: Over- consumption may result in a range of allergic reactions from minor to lethal.
  • Digestive issues: Excess intake of walnut may cause nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, bloating, and more.
  • Weight gain: Although it is a source of good fats, taking too much of this nut can make your weight rise like nuts!
  • Pregnancy and lactation: Expecting and nursing women are advised to consume in prescribed amounts only. If you desire to increase its dosage, do consult your doctor.

Quick Serving Tips

Walnuts can be integrated into your diet to gain from all the associated health benefits. A few ways to add them to your meal are as follows:

  • Add chopped nuts to chicken and fish right before cooking them.
  • Ground the nuts and use the powder on sandwiches, salads, or any other dish.
  • Add chopped walnuts to desserts for a nutty flavor.
  • Add it to yogurt and berries to make a healthy dessert.
  • Roast the nuts for a healthy snack option.
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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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