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.