The simplest foods are extremely good for your health, and this is very true in the case of walnuts.
Walnuts have their own unique nutritional profile and are considered a perfect package of protein, healthy fats, fiber, plant sterols, antioxidants, and many vitamins and minerals.
Just 1 ounce of walnuts provides you with more than 100 percent of the daily recommended value of plant-based omega-3 fats.
Their vitamin content includes vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, folate, and vitamins B12, E, K and A. The few carotenoids in walnuts include beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Walnuts also have a wealth of minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. Like other nuts, walnuts are also rich in dietary fiber and protein.
On top of that, walnuts are tasty. You can eat them as part of a healthy snack or use them to top off your cereal, oatmeal, smoothie or even a salad. Walnut cakes and biscuits are also very popular among children and adults.
You must try to eat just 1 ounce of walnuts daily – equal to seven shelled walnuts – to enjoy many of the health benefits. However, do not eat walnuts in excess.
Here are the top benefits of eating a few walnuts daily.
1. Boosts Brain Health
Walnuts are considered to be ‘brain food’. In fact, the surface structure of a walnut has a crinkly appearance that resembles the brain.
The nuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, which increase brain activity. Also, the iodine and selenium in the nuts ensure optimum brain functioning.
A 2009 study published in the Journal of Nutrition suggests that intake of high-antioxidant foods including walnuts can help increase “health span” and enhance cognitive and motor functioning that usually diminishes with age.
A 2012 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition shows walnut consumption may support brain health, including increasing inferential reasoning in young adults.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Nutrition reports that common walnuts are rich in polyphenols (a type of antioxidant), which help reduce inflammation in the brain and its oxidant load. Also, the polyunsaturated fatty acids in walnuts may prevent age-related brain disorders.
In particular, walnuts may help prevent neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, which affect the brain’s functioning as well as a person’s quality of life.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease reports that walnuts may have a beneficial effect in reducing the risk, delaying the onset, slowing the progression of or preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
2. Fights Cancer
Walnuts can also reduce your risk of cancer. These healthy nuts contain a good amount of polyphenols and phytochemicals that have antioxidant properties to protect against cancers like breast, colon and prostate.
Also, these nuts are rich in anticancer compounds, such as ellagitannins, gamma-tocopherol and alpha-linolenic acid that offer anticancer benefits.
A 2009 study published in Cell Biology International found that the chief constituent in walnuts, juglone, offers protective effects in reducing oxidative stress that can lead to cancer.
According to another 2009 study by the American Association for Cancer Research, walnut consumption may provide the body with essential omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and phytosterols that reduce the risk of breast cancer.
A 2010 study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology reports that the phenolic content and antiproliferative effectiveness of walnuts inhibit the growth of cancer cells, thus working as an effective chemopreventive agent.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Nutrition reports that the omega-3 fatty acids and various antioxidant properties in walnuts may have an anticancer effect.
3. Improves Heart Health
Walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium and folate. All these nutrients are good for your heart health.
Also, the heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and fiber in walnuts help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL or the ‘good’ cholesterol) and reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol) levels.
Eating a few walnuts each day can help reduce inflammation in the arteries of the heart, which helps prevent heart disease. These nuts also improve the functioning of blood vessels, thus reducing the risk of plaque buildup in the arteries.
A 2007 study published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases reports that ingestion of alpha-linolenic acid, which is high in walnuts, is associated with cardiovascular prevention.
A 2009 study in the American Journal of Nutrition notes that a diet including walnuts can contribute to a significant decrease in LDL cholesterol.
4. Controls Diabetes
People who have diabetes can have walnuts on a regular basis. In fact, eating walnuts will benefit your health.
First of all, walnuts may improve endothelial function and reduce your cardiac risk.
Also, the protein and fiber in walnuts help you eat less overall, which helps control your weight. Obesity can increase the complications associated with diabetes.
A 2005 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association reports that diabetic people can have walnuts without any significant weight gain, since they contain a high amount of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
Another 2005 study published in Current Diabetes Reports found that nuts like walnuts can be a healthy dietary component for people with diabetes or those at risk for diabetes, provided overall caloric intake is regulated to maintain a healthy body weight.
A 2009 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition highlights the positive long-term effects of increased dietary polyunsaturated fat from walnuts on metabolic parameters in Type 2 diabetes.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Nutrition also reports that walnut consumption is associated with a significantly lower risk of Type 2 diabetes in women.
5. Aids Weight Loss
Despite their high fat content, walnuts can help you lose weight. In fact, adding healthy amounts of walnuts and other nuts to your diet can help you maintain your ideal weight over time.
The fat in walnuts is healthy omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids that your body needs to operate properly. The high levels of anti-inflammatory, omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid plays a key role in weight loss.
Additionally, the protein and dietary fiber in walnuts help satisfy your hunger and prevent you from overeating.
A 2010 study published in Obesity (Silver Spring) reports that daily walnut consumption increases satiation by the third day. However, more studies are needed to confirm the physiologic role of walnuts, the duration of time needed for these effects to occur, and to elucidate the underlying mechanisms.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition reports that daily ingestion of 56 grams of walnuts improves endothelial function in overweight adults with visceral adiposity. Walnut intake does not lead to weight gain.
A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that diets enriched with nuts did not increase body weight, body mass index or waist circumference in controlled clinical trials.
6. Support Bone Health
Being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts are also good for your bones. The alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in omega-3 fatty acids help fight inflammation, decrease the breakdown of bones, and protect against osteoporosis.
According to a 2007 study by a team of Penn State researchers, plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids (such as the ones derived from flaxseeds and walnuts) have a protective effect on bone health.
Plus, walnuts contain important minerals like, copper, magnesium and manganese that support bone health.
Copper plays an important role in the maintenance of collagen for bones and connective tissues, thus supporting the mechanical strength of bone collagen. Also, copper helps inhibit bone resorption.
Magnesium is an important component for bone health as it helps absorb calcium. Plus, manganese aids in the formation of bone cartilage.
7. Cleanses the Liver
Walnuts are also good for your liver.
The high amount of the amino acid l-arginine in walnuts aids the liver in detoxifying ammonia. Additionally, the good amount of glutathione and omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts aids the natural liver-cleansing process.
A 2008 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reports that polyphenols in walnuts prevent liver damage induced by carbon tetrachloride and d-galactosamine.
Plus, the vitamin E in these nuts helps reduce symptoms of liver disease that has been brought on by obesity.