Health Benefits of Walnuts
Crack open the health benefits of walnuts! Walnuts contain polyunsaturated fat, antioxidants and essential minerals. The key to enjoying this nutrient-rich nut is portion size. A portion of walnuts is 1 ounce, or about 14 walnut halves, and contains 190 calories.
Compared with other tree nuts, walnuts contain the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Just 1 ounce of walnuts contains 2.5 grams of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a polyunsaturated fat which is necessary in the diet1. Walnuts also contain antioxidants, molecules capable of slowing or preventing oxidation; so eating foods with antioxidants can protect your cells from damage caused by the sun or aging2.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that the body cannot produce and must be obtained through diet. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce blood pressure, reduce low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol, and reduce triglyceride levels1,3. In addition, studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation in the body which can reduce the symptoms of chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease4.
An ounce of walnuts provides 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber. Fiber helps regulate movement through the gastro-intestinal tract and helps you feel fuller longer which can prevent over-eating. In addition, it has been shown to decrease LDL and blood pressure as well as help diabetics maintain healthy blood sugar levels5. Walnuts are also rich in the minerals copper and manganese, and a good source of phosphorus and magnesium.
Walnuts come from an ornamental tree that can grow up to 130 feet high. There are three main types of walnuts; the English walnut, also known as the Persian walnut, the Black walnut, and the White or butternut walnut. The most popular type in the US is the English walnut, which has a thinner shell and is the easiest to crack open. The Black walnut has a thicker shell and more pungent flavor. It is mostly cultivated for its strong wood. The white walnut is sweeter and oilier than the other two, but it is not commonly found in stores.
Due to their high polyunsaturated fat content, walnuts are extremely perishable. Shelled walnuts should be stored in an airtight container and placed in the refrigerator for up to 6 months or the freezer for up to 1 year. Unshelled walnuts should be stored in the refrigerator or a cool, dark place for up to 6 months. When walnuts become rancid, they will smell like paint thinner.
Did you Know?
Two thirds of the world’s walnuts come from California’s central and coastal valley.
Tips for Adding Walnuts to Your Diet
- Add chopped walnuts to yogurt and berries for a healthy parfait
- Add chopped walnuts to your salad, sandwich, ice cream, or cereal
- Use ground walnuts to thicken chili or stews
- Use ground walnuts instead of pine nuts in pesto sauce
- Spread ground walnut butter on your toast
- Coat chicken or fish with chopped walnuts and fresh herbs before cooking
Walnut oil has a slightly nutty flavor and is delicious mixed with vinegar as a salad dressing. It can also be used for low and moderate cooking, but not high heat.
Enjoy the health benefits of walnuts by eating them more often - find walnut recipes here.
1. Kaur N, Chugh V, Gupta AK. Essential fatty acids as functional components of foods - a review. J Food Sci Techno. 2014 Oct;51(10):2289-303.
2. Benzie IF, Choi SW. Antioxidants in food: content, measurement, significance, action, cautions, caveats and research needs. Adv Food Nutr Res. 2014;71:1-53.
3. Michas G, Micha R, Zampelas A. Dietary fats and cardiovascular disease: putting together the pieces of a complicated puzzle. Atherosclerosis. 2014 Jun;234(2):320-8.
4. Lorente-Cebrian S, Costa AG, Navas-Carretero S, et al. An update on the role of omega-3 fatty acids on inflammatory and degenerative diseases. J Physiol Biochem. 2015 Mar 11. Epub ahead of print, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25752887
5. Kumar V, Sinha AK, Makkar HP, de Boeck G, Becker K. Dietary roles of non-starch polysaccharides in human nutrition: a review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2012;52(10):899-935.