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Incredible health benefits of walnuts

In This Article
What are Walnuts?
The History of the Humble Walnut
Nutritional Value of Walnuts
Health Benefits of Walnuts
Walnuts in the diet
Why You Should Eat the Walnut Skin
How to Toast Walnuts
Risks and precautions

 

The health benefits of walnuts include reduction of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the body, improvement in metabolism, weight management, and control of diabetes. Other important health benefits of walnuts stem from the fact that these nuts possess anti-inflammatory properties, improve brain health, and help as a mood booster. They are also believed to slow down the spread of cancer.
Among nuts, the case may be made that walnuts are king, as research shows they may boost your health in a number of ways at very easy-to-achieve "doses."

 

What are Walnuts?

Walnuts are edible seeds from the trees of Juglans genus. Walnuts are a wrinkly, globe-like nut that is the fruit of the walnut tree. They grow in a hard shell, which when opened reveals the walnut. This is then split in two and hence you will be familiar with seeing them as flat segments. Walnuts are usually eaten raw or roasted.

 They are a good source of healthful fats, protein, and fiber. They may enhance heart and bone health and help in weight management, among other benefits.

Walnuts have a delicious taste and crunchy texture, which is why they are used in cookies, cakes, granola, cereals, energy bars, and the ever-popular banana walnut bread. The nut meal and flour are also used for baking. The anti-oxidant rich nuts are also used in herbal skin and hair products including soaps, shampoos, face exfoliators, scrubs, and body oils. Walnut oil is a rich emollient and is known for its anti-aging properties.

 

The History of the Humble Walnut

Walnuts belong to the tree nut family, along with Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts and pistachios. Each has its own unique nutritional profile. It's believed that the walnut tree dates as far back as 700 B.C. Walnuts were considered foods for the gods during the early Roman times, and were named after Jupiter – hence the scientific name Juglans regia.

The "English" walnut that everyone is familiar with today is native to India and regions around the Caspian Sea, and was named for the English merchants that carried it for trade around the world. Another variety, the black walnut, is native to North America, in the Appalachian region and central Mississippi valley.1 Eating just one ounce of walnuts a day ( about seven shelled walnuts) may be all it takes to take advantage of their beneficial properties. But what exactly are walnuts good for?

 

Nutritional Value of Walnuts

Walnuts are 65% fat by weight and 15% protein. They are richer than most nuts in polyunsaturated fats and particularly rich in an omega-6 fatty acid called linoleic acid.Walnuts also have a relatively high amount of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). They are a rich source of vitamins like vitamin C, vitamin B6, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and folate, as well as minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc.

Walnuts also contain other essential minerals such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, as well as phytosterols. They are a good source of dietary fiber. They are rich sources of antioxidants like ellagic acid, catechin, melatonin, and phytic acid. Walnuts are also considered as ‘power food’ since they are believed to improve body stamina.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, 1 cup of unbranded, organic walnuts (30 grams) contains:

  • Energy: 200 calories
  • Carbohydrate 3.89 grams (g)
  • Sugar: 1 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 5 g
  • Fat: 20 g
  • Calcium: 20 milligrams (mg)
  • Iron: 0.72 mg
  • Sodium: 0 mg
  • Vitamin A : 5.6 IU

Walnuts are also a good source of:

  • manganese
  • copper
  • magnesium
  • phosphorus
  • vitamin B6
  • iron

They are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. They are also a good source of protein.

 

Health Benefits of Walnuts

The health benefits of walnuts lie in their high concentration of nutrients. According to “The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods,” walnuts not only contain impressive amounts of antioxidants and vitamin E, but are also rich in monounsaturated fats. It’s actually one of the few nuts that has alpha-linolenic acid and omega-3s.
One-quarter cup of walnuts provides more than 100 percent of the daily recommended value of plant-based omega-3 fats, along with high amounts of copper, manganese, molybdenum and biotin. Some of the most exciting benefits of walnuts include:

  • Heart health

    The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids found in walnuts have been shown to decrease LDL (harmful) cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

    This, in turn, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and heart attack.

    A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that the risk of coronary heart disease is 37 percent lower for those consuming nuts more than four times per week, compared to those who never or rarely consumed nuts.

    In 2013, scientists published findings of a small study which indicated that:

    • walnut oil can benefit endothelial function
    • whole walnuts can enhance the process of eliminating "bad" LDL cholesterol

    Results of a meta-analysis published in 2009 suggested that a diet that is high in walnuts is linked to improved lipid and cholesterol profiles. The researchers also concluded that walnuts may also help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.

    In 2003, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the claim for food labels on a variety of nuts, including walnuts, that:

    "Eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease."

    However, they note that while scientific evidence suggests that this is true, it does not prove it. The statement also refers to whole or chopped nuts, and not products that contain nuts.

  • Prevent Cancer
    Walnuts have the capability of controlling the growth of cancer cells in the body. The phenolic compounds, omega-3 fatty acids, gamma-tocopherol, and other antioxidants found in them recorded a control on human cancer cells, including breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancer.

  • Rare and powerful antioxidants
    Antioxidants are crucial to your health, as they are believed to help control how fast you age by combating free radicals, which are at the heart of age-related deterioration. Walnuts contain several unique and powerful antioxidants that are available in only a few commonly eaten foods. This includes the quinone juglone, the tannin tellimagrandin, and the flavonol morin.8

    Walnuts contain antioxidants that are so powerful at free radical scavenging that researchers called them "remarkable,"9 and research has shown that walnut polyphenols may help prevent chemically-induced liver damage.10

    In another study, researchers found that nuts, especially walnuts, have potent antioxidant powers. Walnut polyphenols had the best efficacy among the nuts tested and also the highest lipoprotein-bound antioxidant activity. The researchers concluded:

    "Nuts are high in polyphenol antioxidants which by binding to lipoproteins would inhibit oxidative processes that lead to atherosclerosis in vivo. In human supplementation studies nuts have been shown to improve the lipid profile, increase endothelial function and reduce inflammation, all without causing weight gain."​​

  • Weight management
    According to research published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, routine nut consumption is associated with higher levels of energy use while resting.

    In trials that compared weight loss using diets that include or exclude nuts, the diets that included nuts in moderation showed greater weight loss.

    A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also found that women who reported rarely eating nuts had a greater incidence of weight gain over an 8-year period than those who consumed nuts two times a week or more.

  • Improve Male Fertility
    Walnut has a positive impact on male fertility by improving sperm quality, quantity, vitality, and motility.

  • Gallstone disease
    According to another study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, frequent nut consumption is associated with a reduced risk of cholecystectomy, an operation to remove the gallbladder.

    In over a million people documented over 20 years, women who consumed more than 5 ounces of nuts a week had a significantly lower risk of cholecystectomy than women who ate less than 1 ounce of nuts each week.

  • Diabetes
    The beneficial dietary fat in walnuts has been shown to improve metabolic parameters in people with Type 2 diabetes. Overweight adults with Type 2 diabetes who ate one-quarter cup of walnuts daily had significant reductions in fasting insulin levels compared to those who did not, and the benefit was achieved in the first three months.

  • Bone health
    Walnuts are a good source of the mineral copper. Severe copper deficiency is associated with lower bone mineral density and an increased risk of osteoporosis.

    Osteoporosis is a condition where bones become thinner and less dense, making them easier to fracture and break.

    More research is needed on the effects of marginal copper deficiency and on the potential benefits of copper supplements to prevent and manage osteoporosis.

    Copper also plays an important role in the maintenance of collagen and elastin, major structural components of the body.

    Without sufficient copper, the body cannot replace damaged connective tissue or the collagen that makes up the building blocks for bone. This can lead to a range of issues including joint dysfunction.

    Walnuts contain a high amount of manganese. Manganese has been shown to prevent osteoporosis in combination with the minerals calcium and copper.

    Magnesium, another mineral in walnuts, is important for bone formation as it helps with the absorption of calcium into the bone.

    While manganese and copper supplements may provide quantities of minerals that can be harmful, getting these minerals through the diet is thought to be good for bone health.

  • Improve Metabolism
    Walnut, along with EFAs, provide minerals like manganese, copper, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium to the body. These minerals help contribute to metabolic activities like growth and development, sperm generation, digestion, and nucleic acid synthesis.

  • Reduce Inflammation
    The polyphenolic compounds and phytochemical substances found in walnuts reduce the effects of inflammation in the body. 

  • Pregnant Women
    The rich source of vitamin B-complex present in walnuts is essential for fetal growth. Pregnant mommies are you’ll listening!

  • Regulate Sleep
    This nut makes melatonin, a hormone that helps induce and regulate sleep, and is present in the bio-available form in them.Thus, they help make a perfect addition to your dinner dishes that leads you to a great, 

 

Walnuts in the diet

Nuts have a high-fat content, and so they are prone to becoming rancid. Rancid nuts are not unsafe but have a sharp flavor that people may find unpleasant.

Keeping walnuts in their shells in a cool, dark, and dry place can improve their shelf life.

Kept in a refrigerator below 40 degrees Fahrenheit or in a freezer below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, they can be stored for over a year.

If you want to store them at room temperature, freeze them first at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or less for 48 hours to kill any pests.

 

Why You Should Eat the Walnut Skin

The outermost layer of a shelled walnut – the whitish, flakey (or sometimes waxy) part – has a bitter flavor, but you should resist the urge to remove it. It's thought that up to 90 percent of the antioxidants in walnuts are found in the skin, making it one of the healthiest parts to consume.19 To increase the positive impacts on your health, look for nuts that are organic and raw, not irradiated or pasteurized.

It’s important to note that walnuts are highly perishable and their healthy fats easily damaged. If you're purchasing shelled walnuts in bulk, avoid those that appear shriveled, smell rancid, or that you cannot verify are fresh.

Walnuts should be stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator or freezer, whether they are shelled or unshelled. Walnuts are great as a quick snack, but if you're not a fan of their flavor, you can still get their therapeutic benefits by blending them into smoothies. Or you can try one of the other healthful nuts available.

You can further improve the quality of walnuts by soaking them in water overnight, which will tend to lower some of the enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid. After soaking, you can dehydrate them at a low temperature of around 105 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit until they are crispy again, as they are far more palatable when they are crunchy.

 

How to Toast Walnuts

Toasting walnuts is also a great way to give them a delicious crunch. While I recommend consuming walnuts raw, indulging in toasted walnuts occasionally is all right, as long as they’re eaten in moderate amounts. According to The Spruce Eats, doing this not only removes their bitterness, but also draws out their earthiness. Toasted walnuts have an intensity and delicious aroma that gives any dish a whole new level of flavor.

You can toast walnuts either in the oven or on the stove, depending on the amount you’re using. Oven toasting is best for larger servings, while the stovetop is better if you’re preparing only a handful or so.20

How to Roast Walnuts in the Oven

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. While waiting, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the walnuts over it in a single layer. Make sure not to overcrowd the nuts, and add space in between to allow hot air to evenly circulate.

2. Place walnuts in the oven and roast for five to 10 minutes or until they start to brown and smell toasted. Check them after the first five minutes, as they can go quickly from roasted to burnt.

3. Pull them out as soon as the color has changed. Let cool before chopping them or using in recipes.

How to Toast Walnuts on the Stove

1. Place a frying pan over medium-high heat. No oil needed.

2. Add the walnuts, spreading them in a single layer. Let toast for five minutes or until they start to brown. Make sure to watch them closely and stir frequently to evenly brown them.

3. Transfer to a plate or baking sheet and let them cool evenly.

 

Risks and precautions

Some researchers have concluded that consuming walnuts does not lead to weight gain.

However, walnuts are dense in calories, and people are advised to consume them in moderation to reduce this risk.

A high consumption of walnuts has also been linked to diarrhea.

This could be after a person eats a large quantity of walnuts, because of the high oil or fiber content, or because they have a sensitivity, for example, in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

A 1-ounce serving of walnuts contains about 14 half-walnut pieces.

People who are allergic to nuts should not eat walnuts. If the person develops a rash or hives or difficulty breathing after eating walnuts, medical attention should be sought.

Children should not consume pieces of nut, or they should be supervised while doing so, as this can lead to choking.

Walnuts can be a healthful addition to the diet. A diet that is balanced overall and followed alongside an exercise regime is best for health.


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