6 Walnut Health Benefits for Your Heart, Waistline, Brain and More
Walnuts are a true nutritional powerhouse and one of nature’s healthiest foods.
Here’s how eating walnuts regularly can protect your heart, help you lose weight, provide protection against cancer and diabetes and even improve your brain and enhance the quality of your sleep.
Ahead are the top 6 walnut benefits and even more important reasons to eat nuts more often if you value your health and appearance.
1. Heart Health Benefits of Walnuts
The unique nutritional profile of walnuts provides some important benefits for a healthy heart. They are full of nutrients that are particularly beneficial in terms of improving the way your cardiovascular system functions and potentially reducing the risk of heart disease.
Some of the main walnut heart benefits include:
- High levels of omega-3 alpha linolenic acid linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Vitamin E to prevent cholesterol oxidation within arteries, primarily in the superior gamma tocopherol form.
- Antioxidant phenolic compounds like gallic and ellagic acid, as well as recently identified powerful tannins and other polyphenols that combat free radical damage.
- Heart healthy minerals such as potassium, magnesium and calcium as well as a variety of trace minerals.
- And good levels of the amino acid arginine that has been shown to help improve blood circulation in the body.
At 2009 study in the American Journal of Nutrition found supplementing the participants diets with walnuts resulted in a significant decrease in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
Other research has attributed regular walnut eating to improved cardiovascular function and researchers have identified walnuts as the best nut to eat for a healthy heart.
With cardiovascular disease still the biggest killer in the both USA and the UK, it’s well worth eating walnuts for heart health more often and making them a regular part of your diet.
2. Diabetes Protection
Much of the benefits of walnuts for diabetics come from their positive effects on cardiovascular health. While type 2 diabetes is initially a disease related to blood sugar levels and insulin metabolism, once it has developed, diabetics are at much higher risk of developing cardiovascular problems.
at Yale University found that eating walnuts regularly made a measurable improvement in blood flow in diabetes sufferers. The scientists said that a diet high in walnuts may improve endothelial function (an important predictor of circulatory issues) and reduce a diabetic patient’s cardiac risk.
More research found a diet moderately high in healthy fats from walnuts made a significant improvement in the blood lipid profiles of the patients studied. There was a reduction of 10% in LDL cholesterol and an improvement in HDL cholesterol associated with walnut consumption.
Diabetes is a rapidly growing and dangerous health problem. At the current rate of new cases, it alone will create such a burden on the health system it’s hard to see how we as a society are going to continue to treat it with expensive conventional treatments.
If you are already living with diabetes or considered at risk of developing it please read this article on the 5 most important natural health tips for diabetics. Eating walnuts is a good start but a more holistic approach is desperately needed to halt the rapid rise of this debilitating disease.
3. Cancer Prevention with Walnuts
The rich array of antioxidants and other nutrition found in walnuts, such as gamma tocopherol, omega-3 fatty acids and phenolic compounds like ellagic and gallic acid, as well as minerals like selenium, attest to their cancer prevention potential.
Walnuts contain a further two unusual compounds to help protect your body from cancer. The phytonutrient juglone, found only in walnuts and black walnuts, has been shown in studies to destroy cancerous cells.
Walnut benefits also include the compound melatonin, which is being studied for its protective effects in reducing oxidative stress that can lead to cancer.
Antioxidants in the food you eat are your front line of defense against free radicals that can cause cancer-promoting oxidative damage. With chemical food additives and other environmental pollutants at an all-time high, we need as much of them as we can get.
You could consider walnuts first-class protection for your body against free radicals. If you eat them as often as I do, it’s worth getting them in bulk for the savings and keeping them in the fridge for freshness.
4. Weight Loss Benefits of Walnut
Dieting, counting calories and avoiding fat rarely helps you lose weight. However walnuts, despite their high fat content, just might.
First of all, the fat in walnuts is the healthy natural versions of omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids that our bodies need to operate effectively. There are also high levels of anti-inflammatory omega-3 alpha linolenic acid. Not the type of fat you want to be avoiding for weight loss.
Secondly, with their protein (around 4 grams per ounce) and dietary fiber (approximately 2 grams to the ounce), eating a handful of walnuts is a great way to satisfy your hunger.
Walnuts are known to really increase satiety – that feeling of satisfied fullness – that quickly stops the carbohydrate cravings that have many of us reaching for junk food snacks.
A study in the International Journal of Obesity found that consuming supposedly high fat, but healthy foods, like walnuts, improved weight reduction significantly. So much for avoiding fat and starving yourself.
Chronic inflammation has also been identified as another factor in obesity. The broad range of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts reduce inflammation and as such are also likely to contribute to their weight-loss potential.
5. Walnut Brain Power Food
While the vitamin E and other powerful antioxidant compounds in walnuts would play a protective role, the primary walnut benefits for your brain comes from their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fats are vital for a calm and well functioning brain. Unfortunately, the standard American diet has become so lacking in them that it is estimated that over two-thirds of us are deficient in this vital brain nutrient.
A study from Purdue University found children with low omega-3 levels have a much higher risk of learning and behavioral problems. Further research has shown marked improvement in children’s behavior and learning potential when their diet is supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids.
Low omega-3 fats in the diet are also a known risk factor for depression and other forms of mental illness. If you’d like to get more walnut brain nutrition for breakfast then try the ultimate walnut muesli recipe here.
6. Improved Sleep
Walnuts are an unusually high source of the nutrient melatonin involved in regulating our sleep patterns and getting us to fall asleep in the first place. It may also play a part in how relaxed you are during the day (though a good night’s sleep the night before is one of the best ways to ensure this).
Omega-3 fatty acids are another element of walnut nutrition that have a role in maintaining a relaxed mind and good sleeping patterns.
For those of us jacked up on coffee and energy drinks, or stressed out from office work, a bag of fresh organic walnuts like these could be just the medicine they need to calm down and fall asleep more easily when you go to bed.
The Benefits of Eating Walnuts and Other Nuts
Eating nuts like walnuts can have many health benefits and they make for a satisfying go-to snack to always have on hand instead of the usual fattening and hunger-provoking junk foods.
Despite this, it’s estimated that only around 5% of people in the USA eat nuts on a regular basis. Let’s see if we can raise that a little.
Omega-3 deficiency is pervasive in both America and the UK and causing a lot of health issues and likely social problems as well in the way it affects people’s moods and behavior. Eating walnuts and other omega-3 rich foods is a simple improvement anyone can make if they know how important it is.
Please share this page with your friends and let them know about the many benefits of walnut for their body and brain. With your help this page can spread the word further.
There’s even more on walnut nutrition and just how good they are for you here. If it has been a while since you last had some fresh walnuts like these I’d really recommend giving them a try.
Photo 1: Pauline Mak / Photo 2: HoskingIndustries / Photo 3: srqpix
Infographic from Nuts for Life