Walnuts are one of the oldest tree nuts and are packed full of nutrition. Unfortunately some people avoid them as they think they are high in fat and are too calorie rich. In fact, they are an extremely healthy addition to your diet. The good news also is that this study have shown they don’t increase the risk of obesity.
In fact, consuming walnuts has been shown to increase satiety and they are therefore a great food for weight control.
100g walnuts contain:
654 Calories (33% of your RDI)
15g Protein (30% of your RDI)
13.7g Carbohydrates of which 6.7g is fibre (27% of your RDI)
65.2g Fat (100% of your RDI)
*RDI-Recommended Daily Intake
Walnuts are also a great source of vitamins and minerals. They contain good amounts of Vitamin B6 and folate as well as calcium, iron, potassium, zinc and selenium. They are high in magnesium and phosphorus and extremely high in copper and manganese.
So what are the health benefits?
1. Great for Heart Health
Walnuts are the only nuts that contain high levels of the omega 3 essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is the precursor to DHA and EPA which have been shown to have various benefits to heart health. ALA on its own reduces inflammation and has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attacks.
Walnuts also contain a high level of antioxidants such as ellagic acid, catechin and melatonin which all helps with heart health by destroying free radicals. They also contain 79% of your RDI copper which is great for heart health.
Studies have also shown that eating walnuts reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol whilst increasing the production of HDL (good) cholesterol.
2. Brain Support
Have you noticed how walnuts are shaped like a brain? Did you know that foods that resemble a body part are often beneficial to that body part and walnuts are no exception. Walnuts are a fantastic food to help with keeping age related dementia at bay. The Vitamin E content mops up and destroys the free radicals. The high antioxidant content as well as the essential fatty acids support brain health and have been shown to have a great effect on depression, memory and learning skills.
3. Lowers Risk of Cancer
Studies have shown that eating walnuts (which contain many cancer fighting properties such as anti-oxidants, essential fatty acids and other plant compounds) can reduce the risk of developing certain cancers in particular colon, pancreatic, breast, kidney and prostate. Walnuts contain the gammatocopherol form of vitamin E which is very protective for prostate cells against cancer.
4. Improves Reproductive Health in Males
A 2012 study in the journal ‘Biology of Reproduction’ showed that healthy men aged 21-35 who included at least 75g of walnuts/day into their healthy diet had an increase in sperm quality including vitality, motility and morphology of the sperm.
5. Lowers Risk of Diabetes
A 2013 study in the Journal of Nutrition showed that women who ate 28g of walnuts twice per week had a 24% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. There is no reason to think that this couldn’t be translated to the male population also.
Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2012 showed that overweight adults with type two diabetes who ate 1/4 cup walnuts daily achieved lower fasting insulin levels in the first three months (as compared to a control group who did not eat walnuts but received low fat dietary advice.
Please note that there may be a few reasons that you may want to avoid walnuts for example if you are prone to cold sores from the herpes simplex virus. Walnuts contain high levels of the amino acid arginine which although is very beneficial for heart health, can deplete the amino acid lysine which can then trigger a cold sore occurrence if you suffer from them.
Walnuts also contain high levels of phytic acid which can reduce the ability of the body to absorb minerals such as iron and zinc. Therefore if you consume walnuts and other foods high in phytates it is important to ensure that you are also obtaining enough zinc and iron.
Walnuts are a great snack on their own but are also a wonderful addition to porridge and other cereals, salads and in raw desserts. So be sure to include walnuts in your diet for all these health benefits.