Walnuts are a tasty snack, welcome salad addition, a great breakfast side, and may help to protect from disease, in particular help to fight inflammation and maintain cognitive health. There are several varieties of walnuts available, but the most widely consumed ones are English or Persian (Juglans regia), black (Juglans nigra), and white or butternut (Juglans cinerea). All walnuts have their own unique nutritional values, but all of them are healthy in general.
Walnuts are a delicious way to add extra nutrition, flavor and crunch to a meal. While the nuts are harvested in December, they are available year-round and a great source of those all-important omega-3 fatty acids. They are the only tree nut that is an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based omega-3 essential fatty acid. As one of the best plant food sources of omega-3s, a one-ounce serving provides 2.5 grams of ALA.
There are three main omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega-3s cannot be made in the body (therefore called essential), so they must come from food. EPA and DHA are found in fatty fish, including salmon, mackerel, and trout. ALA is found in plant-based foods, such as walnuts, flaxseed, soybean oil, and canola oil.
Walnuts are loaded with antioxidants and healthy fats that can limit the risk factors for heart diseases. Consuming them on a regular basis has been shown to lessen inflammation and clotting, as well as the levels of triglyceride and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol. Other benefits of eating them include:
- They promote bone health.
- Contain melatonin which can lead to better sleep.
- Rich in antioxidants.
- Good for the brain.
Walnuts provide manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and selenium. These minerals contribute to metabolic activities like digestion, sperm generation, and nucleic acid synthesis. This means that walnuts can enhance the function of many of the body’s systems.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a leading cause of mortality in the United States and changes in lifestyle can minimize the likelihood of succumbing to heart disease. Anti-inflammatory agents are commonly used to reduce the chronic inflammatory state behind the pathogenesis of CVD. Walnuts also have been shown to ease the type of inflammation that leads to heart disease, and they may help lower your chances of a blood clot that could cause a heart attack. Two large studies found that just five servings of nuts a week can reduce your risk of heart disease by as much as 50%.
Improve gut health
In a recent study, researchers discovered that eating about seven walnuts a day (about one half of a cup), helped participants to consume less food daily, both carbohydrate and fat-rich foods. Not only this, but consuming walnuts helped to is positively impact the gut microbiome, increasing both the quality and quantity of good bacteria.
How many walnuts should I eat?
In the majority of dietary studies, approximately one ounce of tree nuts per day is the minimal amount needed to provide significant benefits, and that’s the amount we recommend that you incorporate into your daily diet. In the case of walnuts, one ounce means about 7 shelled walnuts, or 14 walnut halves. Of course, since walnuts are a high-calorie food, it’s important to incorporate them into an overall healthy diet that remains on target in terms of calories. A daily serving of 7 walnuts is about 200 calories.
Bottom line, living a more anti-inflammatory lifestyle – including the addition of eating walnuts, as part of a healthy (organic) diet will greatly improve your health and help avoid many chronic health issues.