Among all the nuts that we consume on a daily basis, walnuts are often overlooked. However, the brain-shaped nuts pack benefits beyond their reputation. From their power on the brain to their effects on type 2 diabetes and weight loss, let’s take a look at all the benefits you will gain by eating more walnuts.
There are dozens of varieties of walnut trees, each of which has its own shape and taste. Walnuts originated in the Mediterranean, but also from Central Asia. They have been eaten there for thousands of years. Walnuts grow in a shell on the tree, inside which is a hard core that needs to be cracked to get the nut out. That is why the walnut is officially not a nut, but a stone fruit.
High nutritional value
Many people intuitively feel that walnuts can mean a lot to their health. That is right, because these nuts are packed with nutrients. Walnuts contain hardly any carbohydrates, but are mainly rich in fat, with more than 60 percent. A large part of the fat is oleic acid, which we also find in abundance in olive oil. Most fatty acids are polyunsaturated, in the form of omega-3 and omega 6 fatty acids. A 30-gram serving of walnuts already provides the recommended daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids for an adult.
The omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts are made of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). According to an observational study, every gram of ALA per day reduces the risk of dying from heart disease by 10 percent. The protein content of walnuts is usually about 16 percent. In addition, walnuts are particularly high in fiber, which is good for the intestinal flora. If you look at the micronutrients of walnuts, you will also notice that walnuts are rich in many B vitamins (such as B6 and folic acid) and vitamin E. Walnuts are also nutritious because of the minerals potassium, phosphorus, iron, manganese, magnesium, copper, selenium and zinc.
Walnuts are also rich in many active plant substances such as ellagic acid, catechins, melatonin and phytic acid. Walnuts have a more antioxidant effect than any other nuts common in the Western diet.
Active plant substances
Ellagic acid in walnuts has a powerful antioxidant power that scientists say can reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. The catechin is also a flavonoid with an antioxidant effect, which in turn has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system. Melatonin is a hormone that not only regulates the day and night rhythm, but also a powerful antioxidant that has a beneficial effect on the heart. Phytic acid has a bad reputation because it binds certain minerals such as iron and zinc in the meal, but this is not entirely justified. Phytic acid is in fact a powerful antioxidant and can therefore positively affect health. It is important to mention that the antioxidants are mainly found in the brown skin around the walnut nucleus.
The benefits of walnuts
· Good for the brain
If you look at the shape of a walnut, it is striking that it resembles a human brain. An old popular wisdom is that foods that look similar to an organ are also healthy for the organ in question. As far as walnuts are concerned, that is definitely true. Scientists have found in several studies that walnuts have a positive effect on brain function. The polyphenols and vitamin E cause oxidative damage and inflammation in the brain to decrease. The brains of seniors who regularly eat walnuts not only work faster, but function more flexibly, giving them a better memory. Mice fed many walnuts had fewer memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, while learning new skills more quickly.
· Good for cholesterol levels
Many doctors still prescribe drugs to lower high blood lipid levels. But scientists say it may be wiser to eat walnuts every day to naturally lower cholesterol levels. According to a recent study, walnuts can reduce cholesterol levels and triglycerides by five percent within eight weeks. In addition, the walnuts lowered the apolipoprotein B in the blood by six percent. High apolipoprotein B levels are associated with cardiovascular disease. The antioxidants in walnuts make the LDL cholesterol oxidize less quickly, making it less quickly deposited on the vessel walls.
· Good for blood pressure
· Good for fertility
Scientists have found that 75 grams of walnuts a day increases sperm quality in young men. Most men in the Western world eat a lot of highly processed food, which is rich in refined sugar, which is associated with poorer sperm quality.
· Good against the aging process
An observational study that examined more than 50,000 older women over 18 years showed that a healthy diet with many walnuts can reduce the risk of physical discomfort by 13 percent.
· Good against type 2 diabetes
The walnut oil can cause the fasting blood sugar level in type 2 diabetics to decrease by eight percent. In addition, it was also shown that the HbA1C value also fell by eight percent. The HbA1C value reflects the average blood sugar level over the past three months. According to scientists, nuts, and especially walnuts, can greatly reduce the risk of diabetes.
· Supports weight loss
Walnuts are very high in calories and therefore you might think that you will gain weight by eating a lot of it. Fortunately, studies revealed something else. Initially, it was found that the energy intake of walnuts was 21 percent lower than initially thought. This may be due to the many fibers in the nuts. Walnuts also combat the feeling of hunger, which means you feel less hungry after eating them. Walnuts are rich in fiber, protein and fats, all three of which provide a good feeling of satiety.
· Good for the intestinal flora
A study of 194 healthy adults revealed that eight weeks of eating walnuts increases the good gut bacteria. These bacteria in turn produce higher levels of short-chain fatty acid butyrate, making the intestinal wall stronger and healthier. A disturbed intestinal flora can promote inflammation and thus increase the risk of obesity, heart disease and cancer.
· Perhaps prevents cancer
According to laboratory studies, animal studies and observational studies with humans, walnuts can reduce the risk of certain cancers. Scientists namely cite breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colorectal cancer. Walnuts are rich in ellagic acid, which is converted into urolithins by human gut bacteria. Urolithins have a strong anti-inflammatory effect, which may explain the effect against colorectal cancer.
· Omega-3 fatty acids
Because walnuts contain so many omega-3 fatty acids, they are relatively short-lived. Peeled walnuts last for a few months. Walnuts in the shell will last up to a year if stored dark and cool. Many recipes have roasted walnuts as an ingredient. However, roasting walnuts is unfavorable to the omega-3 fats, which can oxidize by roasting.
The difference to pecans
Walnuts are very similar to pecans, so it should be said that they are about as healthy. Unfortunately, the appearance is deceptive. Although both belong to the walnut family, the differences in nutritional values are large. Pecans contain less fiber, B vitamins, vitamin C and minerals such as magnesium. However, pecans have much more vitamin E. A particularly big difference between the two nuts is that walnuts contain an extremely high amount of omega-3 fats and pecans hardly. Pecans are rich in omega-6 fatty acids, but we usually absorb too much anyway. Walnuts are therefore the much healthier choice.
Walnuts in meals
Walnuts taste a little bitter and are therefore not popular with everyone. The bitter taste comes mainly from the brown walnut skin that surrounds the core. However, this skin is super healthy. Fortunately, there are many different ways to eat walnuts. For example, ground as an addition salads, yoghurt, granola, or oat muesli. A delicious walnut recipe that most people like is walnut pesto. Simply mix a handful of walnuts with basil, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, garlic and some salt and pepper with a stick blender. You will have a healthy spread for bread or crackers at no time. Walnuts also fit perfectly into a smoothie along with bananas and figs.
Another original way to eat walnuts is a combination with Brussels sprouts. If this is too exotic, walnuts can also be added to an endive saucepan. If you do not like it, you can still sprinkle chopped walnuts on homemade banana pancakes. In other words, just give walnuts a chance.