You may think of walnuts as an ingredient for baking. I did, initially. Back in the days, I used to buy walnuts for baking bread and cakes. Things changed. Besides using them for my baking, I include walnuts in my diet for health reasons. You should consider this too but before you do that, surely you’ll like to know exactly what health benefits do walnuts have?
Walnut is a Superfood
To understand the term “superfood”
Merriam-Webster dictionary defined superfood as “food that is rich in compounds such as antioxidants, fibre or fatty acids considered beneficial to a person’s health.
However, Wikipedia defined superfood as a marketing term for food assumed to confer health benefits resulting from an exceptional nutrient density. This term is not commonly used by dietitians and nutrition scientists.
Personally, the term does not matter much to me at all. How about you? Superfood or not, so long you and I understand the basis of health benefits it provides.
This nutrient-dense nut provides healthy fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals and that’s the starting point of how they may support your health. Read on…
Walnuts Nutrition Facts in Brief
Walnuts are made up of 83% fats and about 9% of protein base on a 1-ounce (28g) serving. They are low in carbs at 8% and most of which consist of dietary fibre of 7%.
On top of that, walnuts are an excellent source of several vitamins and minerals that is copper, folic acid, phosphorous manganese, Vitamin B6 and E.
The bioactive plant compounds found in walnuts are rich in antioxidants. The compounds are melatonin, catechin, ellagic acid and phytic acid.
Let’s look at how these components benefit your health.
10 Health Benefits eating walnuts
Here they are
1. Plant Source of Omega-3 & 6. Deliver Healthy Fats
Omega-3 fatty acids are a healthful and essential type of fat and they offer many health benefits including help prevent heart disease and stroke, may help control lupus, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis (1).
Walnuts are a good source of Omega-3 fat from plants, called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). In a small scale study, researchers found participants consuming a certain amount of walnuts daily for a month recorded an improvement in their omega-3 status.
You ought to know your body cannot produce Omega-3 fatty acids thus you have to get them from food. Walnuts, a nutty crunchy good choice.
2. Rich in Antioxidants. Fight Oxidative Damage
Walnuts are an excellent source of antioxidants which helps fight free radicals that can damage your body’s cells and cause diseases.
The antioxidant properties are found in the plant compounds called polyphenols and are particularly high in the paper-thin skin of walnuts.
A study revealed healthy adults eating a walnut-rich meal prevented oxidative damage of “bad” LDL cholesterol. That’s beneficial because oxidized LDL can cause atherosclerosis – a buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances in and on your artery walls (plaque), which can restrict blood flow. This leads to the next health benefit of walnuts.
3. Boost Heart Health
Heart disease or cardiovascular disease is a broad term used for chronic conditions related to the heart and blood vessels.
Eating walnuts may reduce risk factors for heart disease by
- Lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol
- Improve blood vessel function by reducing the plaque buildup in your arteries
- Reduce inflammation. Inflammation may promote the growth of plaques and loosen plaque in your arteries can trigger blood clots – the primary cause of heart attacks and strokes (1).
4. Help Decrease Inflammation
Besides heart disease, inflammation is the root cause of many diseases, including type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. These diseases may also be caused by oxidative stress.
The polyphenols found in walnuts can help fight inflammation and oxidative stress (1).
5. Reduce Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is another risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
In a study, researchers found participants on a whole walnut diet experienced lowered central blood pressure as well as lowered total cholesterol.
6. May Help Reduce Risk of Some Cancers
Cancer is a group of diseases with many possible causes and mainly characterized by abnormal cell growth. You may reduce the risk of developing cancer by eating healthy food, exercising and practise healthy lifestyle habits.
Since walnuts are rich in beneficial plant compounds, they make an effective cancer-preventive diet (1).
While more studies (on humans) are needed to confirm the effects of eating walnuts for decreasing the risk cancers, there are a few animal studies conducted indicating that eating walnuts may suppress cancer growth in breast, prostate, colon, and kidney tissue (1, 2, 3, 4).
7. Support Weight Loss
Although walnuts are calorie-dense, a study showed energy absorbed from them is 21% lower than would be expected based on their nutrients. This explains eating walnuts do not gain excessive weight.
Not only that, they help control your appetite. A controlled study with 10 participants consumed a walnut based smoothie once a day for five days recorded decreased appetite and hunger.
Coupled with walnuts’ high dietary fibre content, you’ll actually feel fuller thus suppress your hunger pangs.
It is known excessive weight greatly increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. So, regular consumption of walnuts can help manage your weight thus control your blood sugar. This leads to the next point.
8. May Help Reduce Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Besides weight control, high fibre food helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Fibres take long to breakdown and digest hence ensures slow release of sugar in the bloodstream.
It is also important to know the Glycaemic Index (GI) of the food you consume if you are at high risk for diabetes. The GI is a relative ranking of carbohydrate in foods depending on how they affect blood glucose levels. Foods with a GI index lower than 55 are said to be ideal for a diabetes diet (1). The GI of walnut is 20 (2).
9. Boost Brain & Memory
The shell of a walnut looks like a tiny brain. Does this mean it is good for boosting your memory? I have read and heard of this countless times, seeing images comparing the brain and walnut. Believe it or not, science-back studies reveal.
However, another study published in March 2020 showed walnuts had no effect on the cognitive function of healthy participants but brain MRIs showed that the nuts had a greater effect on higher-risk people, including heavier smokers, and those with lower baseline neuropsychological test scores. This showed eating walnuts may help delay cognitive decline for older adults-at-risk.
10. Promotes a Healthy Gut
A healthy gut leads to good overall health and help reduce disease risk. For this reason, your gut microbiomes need to feed on a diverse array of substrates like fatty acids, fibre and bioactive compounds.
Eating walnuts may be one way to support the health of your microbiota and your gut. A study has shown that a daily intake of 43 g walnuts over eight weeks significantly affects the gut microbiome by enhancing probiotic.
In a Nutshell
There are reasons why walnuts are labelled as a superfood.
Packed with healthy, essential fats, vitamins, minerals, fibre and plant compounds, walnuts can help support your general well-being as well as decreasing risk of several diseases which includes cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
Walnuts’ antioxidants are excellent in fighting inflammation and oxidative stress, both are root causes of many modern times diseases.
Since you can only get Omega-3 from food, your body cannot produce, the nutty nutritious walnuts are an excellent choice. Do not ignore Omega-3 because it is incredibly important for your body especially in helping prevent heart disease and stroke.
Although walnuts are high in calories, still they help control your appetite and support weight loss. The fibre content of walnut plays a role too.
Now you know what health benefits walnuts have, do they give you good and sound reasons to include walnuts in your daily diet? Tell us in the comments section below.
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Happy shopping and thanks for reading.
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Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or medical professional, and this post should not be taken as medical advice. Please do your own research. The material on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is general information that may not apply to you as an individual and is not a substitute for your own doctor’s medical care or advice.