Also called 'super food' and 'food for the gods', walnuts have been known to man for long. Recent studies have only established the various health benefits of walnuts. From improving cardiovascular health to boosting our immune system and metabolism, the benefits are numerous. It's not just the nut but also the oil that is beneficial, and its benefits are the same as those obtained from the nut itself, provided the oil is unrefined.
A serving of 35 gram of the oil has the same nutritional value as 50 grams of nuts. 100 gm walnuts contain 375-500 mg potassium, 13-91 mg calcium and 189-278 mg magnesium. These minerals play an important role in body metabolism and in the overall health of an individual. You might be surprised to know that 25 gm walnuts contain 94.5% omega-3 fats, 42.5% manganese, and 20% copper.
As these nuts are high in nutrients, their calorie content should not be a problem at all, when consumed in limited amounts. To reap the health benefits, you should consume the nuts with the skin (in the whole form). Usually, nuts have most of the vitamin E in the alpha-tocopherol form; but walnuts contain exceptionally high level of vitamin E in the form of gamma-tocopherol which protects us from heart problems.
Walnuts are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients which help improve the composition of blood and flexibility of blood vessels. Regular consumption helps maintain the balance of molecules that influence inflammation.
Health Benefits of Walnuts
- Calcium in walnuts helps improve bone health. It makes your teeth strong. It reduces the risk of osteoporosis and tooth decay.
- Studies have shown that these nuts are effective in preventing gallstones in women.
- These nuts are helpful in easing constipation due to their laxative effects.
- Ellagic acid in walnuts is an antioxidant compound that boosts the immune system. Its anticancer properties also help in fighting the dreaded disease.
- Walnuts reduce total cholesterol in the body. They increase the amount of HDL cholesterol and lower the LDL cholesterol levels in blood.
- They are an excellent source of a proteins, fiber, B vitamins and minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese.
- Lp(a) is a lipid compound that increases blood clotting and increases the risk of atherosclerosis and heart diseases. Walnuts reduce the amounts of this lipid compound in the body.
- Research indicates that they may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease by arresting the formation of the amyloid plaques that are found in the brains of patients who suffer from this debilitating disease.
- They are a rich source of omega-3 essential fatty acids. These nutrients improve cardiovascular health and also provide anti-inflammatory benefits in asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema and psoriasis.
- Besides omega-3 fatty acids that prevent erratic heart rhythms and regulate plaque formation in blood vessels, the essential amino acid l-arginine in walnuts improves the elasticity of blood vessels. This ensures proper supply of blood to various organs.
- Melatonin, a powerful antioxidant that induces a good night's sleep, is present in walnuts in the bio-available form. Hence, having a handful of the nuts before going off to bed helps in getting a sound sleep.
- They are also called the 'brain food'. It is not only due to the wrinkled appearance of their shell that resembles the brain, but also due to the fact that they contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Nearly 60% of our brain is structural fats which is primarily omega-3 fatty acids.
- Also referred to as the 'Imperial Nut' by the Romans, black walnut health benefits include preventing heartburn, high blood pressure and various skin disorders.
- They help in getting rid of intestinal parasites and tapeworms and in ensuring proper functioning of the thyroid gland.
- For a healthy life, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids should be maintained at 4:1. However, dietary changes have disrupted this ratio and in an average American this ratio stands at 20:1.
- Walnuts are one natural food that have the perfect ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which is 4:1.
- Phytonutrients present in the nuts - like the tannin tellimagrandin or the flavonol morin - are some of the rare but essential antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients.
- The quinone juglone - found in walnuts, is not provided by any other commonly-eaten foods. These nutrients help prevent metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
You must have heard of black walnuts and English walnuts. Their health benefits are almost the same as those discussed so far in the article.
Adding Walnuts to the Diet
Well it's true that they are a rich source of calories. But the fact that these nuts have a number of health benefits can't be overlooked either. The key is to substitute foods with high levels of saturated fats with a handful of these nuts everyday. 1.5 oz of walnuts per day are enough to make the most of the walnut health benefits. One ounce means about 7 shelled nuts, or 14 walnut halves. Are you wondering how to incorporate this wonder nut in your diet? Well, how about replacing pepperoni with finely chopped walnuts on your pizza?
You could also sprinkle your oatmeal or breakfast cereal with some chopped walnuts. You can add them to salads, desserts, fruits or vegetables. They could also substitute bacon or eggs for protein. Or simply, you could chomp on a few nuts instead of grabbing a handful of cookies when hungry. Despite high calorie content, walnuts are believed to aid in weight loss as these nuts are filling and reduce one's food cravings. In fact, research has shown that weight gain by consumption of walnuts in moderate amount is insignificant as compared to its other health benefits.
So what's holding you back? Grab a handful of these nuts and make the most of the numerous health benefits that not only ensure proper functioning of the body, but are also a tasty way to stay healthy.