Nuts often get a bad rep for their fat and high-calorie content. But if you’re avoiding walnuts because you think they may hinder your “diet”, you’ve got it all wrong. Not all calories are created equal, and the health benefits of walnuts make them worthy of a place at your table.
Best eaten raw and whole, walnuts are an excellent source of healthful fats. These omega-3 fats, and specifically alpha-linolenic, offer brain benefits confirmed in numerous studies. Paired with their potential to prevent cancer and protect the heart, walnuts pack a nutritional punch.
One study concluded:
“RESULTS: Results indicated that walnut extract, alpha-linolenic acid, and docosahexaenoic acid provided significant protection against cell death and calcium dysregulation; the effects were pretreatment concentration dependent and stressor dependent. Linoleic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid were not as effective at protecting hippocampal cells from these insults.”
But the benefits don’t stop there.
One study revealed that walnuts have potentially powerful breast cancer prevention properties. Researchers used mice specifically “created” to be at risk for breast cancer and fed one group of them a daily dose of walnuts, while the other didn’t receive any walnuts. When compared with those who didn’t get the nuts, the mice had a much lower risk of breast tumors, and when tumors were present, they were far smaller than in the control.
Just how many walnuts were required to reap this remarkable benefit? About the equivalent of 2 ounces in humans.
“It is clear that walnuts contribute to a healthy diet that can reduce breast cancer,” said lead researcher Elaine Hardman.
There is little coincidence that walnuts resemble tiny brains when they offer so many benefits for the mind. Some studies have linked them to a reduced risk of degenerative conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s. One study found that rats fed walnuts for a 28-day period had learning and memory improvements when compared with other rats.
Also due to the healthful fats within, walnuts could protect you against heart problems. A study from the Journal of Nutrition indicates they are able to reduce LDL cholesterol and blood pressure.
Walnuts are rich in protein, b vitamins, calcium, and iron, just to name a few. The highest concentration of these nutrients is found in the slightly-bitter skin surrounding the nut meat.
Tree nuts aren’t all that popular, however. One recent study indicates only 5.5% of American adults eat tree nuts on a regular basis. Considering all of the benefits, it’s high time the rest of us joined in.