The health benefits of walnuts include reduction of LDL cholesterol in the body, improvement in metabolism, and control of diabetes. Other important health benefits of walnuts stem from the fact that these nuts possess anti-inflammatory properties, aid in weight management, and help as a mood booster. They are also believed to slow down the spread of cancer.
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. The seed of the walnut fruits contains significant amounts of nutrients such as proteins, EFAs (essential fatty acids), carbohydrates, vitamins, and essential minerals.
Walnuts have always been considered as ‘brain food’, perhaps because the surface structure of the walnut has a crinkly appearance like that of the brain. Due to this reason, they have been considered as a symbol of intelligence, leading to the belief that they actually increase one’s intellect. While this is not exactly true, recent studies have proven that the consumption of these seeds does help in promoting brain function. They contain omega-3 fatty acids, which increase the activity of the brain. Omega-3 fatty acids coupled with iodine and selenium add to ensuring optimum functioning of the brain.
Along with their delicious taste, walnuts have antioxidants and proteins that help in imparting a multitude of health benefits. They are also a delicious supplement and therefore can be easily included in anyone’s diet. They are also considered as ‘power food’ since they are believed to improve body stamina.
Walnuts have been known to mankind for a long time. Some interesting facts include the following:
- Walnut trees have been known to mankind since 7000 B.C.
- Two-thirds of the world’s walnut production happens in California.
- One can see crinkles in walnuts both inside and outside.
Nutritional Value of Walnuts
Thomas and Gebhardt (2006) had conducted extensive research on the nutritional facts about walnuts that have been reported by the USDA National Nutrient Database for standard reference. The important nutritional facts from this research are listed below.
- Nutritional value includes the energy of 190 calories per ounce or 30 grams.
- Carbohydrate content per ounce is 4 grams.
- Protein found in 1 ounce is 4 grams.
- The total fat content found in 1 ounce is 18 grams, which includes both unsaturated fats and saturated fats.
- Dietary fiber found in them is about 2 grams per ounce.
- The minerals found in them include calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium.
- Vitamins include vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin E, vitamin K, and vitamin A. Carotenoids found in them include beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
- Phytosterols in walnuts are about 20 mg per ounce.
Health Benefits of Walnuts
There are several health benefits of walnuts. The important ones established by research over the years are listed below.
Improve Heart Function
Walnuts are rich in omega-3 and are an ample source of monounsaturated fatty acids (72%) like oleic acid. It also contains EFAs like linoleic acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and arachidonic acids. Scientific studies prove that the inclusion of walnuts in any diet helps prevent coronary heart diseases by favoring a healthy lipid supply. Their consumption lowers the bad LDL cholesterol and increases the level of good HDL cholesterol. Daily consumption of 25 grams of walnuts provides 90% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of EFAs, which in turn lowers the risk of high blood pressure and heart diseases.
Boost Bone Health
EFAs from walnuts secure the bone health of the body. These increase calcium absorption and deposition, while reducing urinary calcium excretion.
One of the health benefits of consuming walnuts is that it improves the body metabolism. They, 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.
People suffering from diabetes can have walnuts on a regular basis without any significant weight gain, since they contain a high amount of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, as per research conducted by Gillen et al. (2005) at the University of Wollongong, Australia. In an article titled “The impact of nuts on diabetes and diabetes risk”, by Lovejoy (2005), it is mentioned that the intake of nuts is inversely proportional to the risk of developing type-II diabetes.
Some of the components present in walnuts have the capability of controlling the growth of cancer cells in the body. The phenolic compounds and antioxidants found in them recorded a control on human cancer cells, according to the research conducted by Carvalho et al. (2010) from the University of Portugal.
The polyphenolic compounds and phytochemical substances found in walnuts reduce the effects of inflammation in the body. This finding was a result of an experiment conducted in the Mediterranean area by Papoutsi et al. (2008).
Rich in gamma-tocopherol, walnuts are also a good source of vitamin E, which is a strong lipid-soluble antioxidant. The vitamin E present in them helps in maintaining and protecting the skin from free radicals that are harmful in nature. They are also an important source of B-complex vitamins such as folate, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B-6.
Want a good night’s sleep? Eat some walnuts soaked in water before sleeping, or eat a salad or any dish using them as toppings. These nuts make melatonin, a hormone that helps induce and regulate sleep, and is available to them in a bio-available form. Thus, they help make a perfect dinner that leads you to a great, restful sleep.
The amount of fat, calories, and carbohydrates found in 1 ounce of walnuts is about 18 grams, 190 calories, and 4 grams respectively. Therefore, it is believed that walnut consumption may result in weight gain. However, research conducted by Sabaté et al. (2005) at the Loma Linda University, California, USA have shown that walnut consumption of about 35 grams per day did not result in any significant weight gain among tested individuals over a period of 1 year.
A scientific study indicates that lack of omega-3 fatty acids (provided by walnuts) causes hyperactivity, irritability, and tantrums. Supplementing a child’s diet with these nuts compensates the deficit in EFAs and alleviates their mood. This is even applicable to adults who are battling depression and stress.
Walnut oils have significant astringent properties. 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. Walnut oils are terrific as dressings on chicken, turkey, salads, pasta, fish, and steaks. The uses of walnut oils in dessert recipes help bring a nutty flavor to the dish. A 35 gram serving of walnut oil provides the same nutritional benefits as 50 grams of walnuts. They also provide significant levels of vitamins B-1, B-2, and B-3.
Quick Tips to Serve Walnuts
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 shredded walnuts to chicken and fish right before cooking them.
- Ground some walnuts and use the powder on sandwiches, salads, or any other dish.
- Add chopped/shredded walnuts to desserts for a nutty flavor.
- Add chopped/shredded walnuts to yogurt and berries to make a healthy dessert.
- To roast walnuts, use a 70-75°c oven for 15-20 minutes.