A handful of walnuts a day protects with an antioxidant, heart-healthy dose of nutrients. Nutritionists recommend raw, organic walnuts and suggest storing both shelled and unshelled in an airtight container in the refrigerator so that the healthy fats remain intact.
More than 100 men and women at risk for diabetes due to either excess weight or elevated blood sugar or blood pressure levels added 2 ounces of walnuts to their daily diets for 6 months, and then went another 6 months eating a walnut-free diet. Researchers from the Yale Prevention Research Center found that eating walnuts for 6 months beneficially impacted heart variables, including improved endothelial (blood vessel wall) function and reduced levels of LDL cholesterol. Walnuts also boosted overall quality of diet, and despite the high fat content of walnuts, no participants gained any weight.
In an interview with Forbes, David L. Katz, founding director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, explained:
“Our primary outcome was diet quality, and that differed significantly between walnuts-added and walnuts-excluded … The implication of that is that (a) walnuts displace less nutritious foods when added to the daily diet; and (b) the net effect is a significant improvement in overall diet quality.… The take-away here is: eat walnuts routinely, improve your overall diet quality – and apparently, without risk of weight gain … That is because though high in calories, walnuts are very satiating. That high ratio of satiety-to-calories makes them helpful in appetite control.”
An Enriching Source of ALA
Walnuts are a terrific source of the plant-based omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). According to University of Maryland Medical Center, studies have shown that people who eat a diet rich in ALA are less likely to have a heart attack and have a 50% lower risk of sudden cardiac death. Research shows that all it takes are just 4 walnuts a day to increase ALA levels in the body.
Walnuts also contain the amino acid l-arginine, which has been shown to impart heart-healthy benefits in people with or at risk for heart disease.
A Polyphenol Powerhouse
Walnuts contain rare and potent antioxidants, including the quinone juglone, the tannin tellimagrandin, and the flavonol morin. In fact, they have the highest antioxidant capacity of all nuts! According to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the polyphenols in walnuts may help protect against chemically-induced liver damage.
A daily diet of walnuts has also been shown to have a beneficial influence on type 2 diabetes. The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that overweight adults with type 2 diabetes who ate ¼ cup of walnuts each day experienced significantly lower fasting insulin levels than those who did not eat walnuts, and the benefits manifested in just 3 months!
So add a few walnuts to your diet each day to enjoy the antioxidant and heart-healthy dose of nutrients they provide.