What Are the Health Benefits of Walnuts?

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    Walnuts are a nutritious and tasty snack that can support heart health, cognitive function, immunity, weight management, and more.

    Walnuts are commonly added to some of the most delicious baked goods and recipes because of their satisfying crunch and flavor. But, the health benefits of walnuts far exceed their texture and flavor profile. Walnuts are considered a nutritional powerhouse – and for good reason! Packed with antioxidants and healthy fats, walnuts are one of the most nutritious treats you can enjoy. They provide numerous health benefits and have been linked to improved heart health, cognitive function, weight management, and more. Incorporating walnuts into your diet can significantly improve many aspects of your health. With all these amazing benefits, it's no wonder that walnuts are such a popular snack!

    Nutritional Profile of Walnuts

    When it comes to nutritious snacking, it's no surprise that walnuts make an appearance on nearly every nutritionist's list of staple foods. Let’s examine the nutritional profile of these delicious nuts. In just one ounce of English walnuts, there is a whopping 4 grams of protein and about 2 grams of fiber. This is an impressive nutrient profile for such a small serving. Not only that, walnuts are one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These fats are known to support heart health and boost cognitive function.

    Revealing Essential Vitamins and Minerals

    As for the micronutrient content of walnuts, they are certainly not lacking. For starters, walnuts are an excellent source of vitamin E, with gamma-tocopherol being the most abundant form. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect your cells from potential damage caused by free radicals.

    In addition, walnuts are a great source of B vitamins, particularly folate and B6. These B vitamins are necessary for supporting the nervous system and promoting energy metabolism. When it comes to minerals, walnuts are rich in copper, phosphorus, and manganese. Copper is critical for ensuring the production of red blood cells, while phosphorus is essential for keeping bones strong and repairing tissues throughout the body.

    Understanding the Fiber Factor

    Fiber is such an important part of our diet because it helps regulate bowel movements, maintains healthy cholesterol levels (already in normal range), and stabilizes blood sugar levels (already in normal range). The fiber content found in walnuts makes them an excellent food source for maintaining digestive health. Regularly including these tasty nuts in your diet can promote regularity while keeping gut bacteria healthy. However, the amount of fiber in walnuts can vary depending on where they were cultivated.

    Potential Benefits

    From boosting heart health, empowering cognitive function, promoting skin wellness, and enhancing immunity, walnuts are boasting with potential benefits. Let’s take a look at some of these and break them down in more detail.

    Boosting Heart Health

    We’ve already mentioned that the omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts play a role in supporting heart health, but it doesn’t stop there. There are other nutritional components in walnuts that contribute to their heart health benefits. One of the reasons why walnuts are so beneficial is due to their unique amino acid profile. Walnuts contain low levels of lysine, but high amounts of arginine, an amino acid that has been linked to vasodilation, or the widening of blood vessels. Moreover, they are also rich in phytosterols, which are beneficial plant compounds that can help maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels that are already in the normal range.

    Empowering Cognitive Function

    Not only do walnuts have a unique appearance that resembles the human brain, but they’ve also been linked to supporting cognitive function! The theory is known as the “doctrine of signatures”, which states that certain physical attributes of plants serve as signs of their therapeutic value.

    One key reason for their brain-boosting effects is the presence of polyphenolic compounds. These compounds are strong antioxidants that have been shown to improve communication between neurons and manage oxidative stress, which can negatively impact cognitive health. Plus, research has shown that consuming just 1-2 ounces of walnuts per day can support brain health, thanks to their high DHA content.

    In fact, a crossover study conducted with 64 college students found that those who ate walnuts for eight weeks increased their inferential verbal reasoning abilities by 11.2%. Other studies have also shown that a greater intake of high-antioxidant foods, such as walnuts, may enhance cognitive and motor function as we age. So, the next time you're looking for a boost in brain power, reach for a handful of walnuts and enjoy their delicious and beneficial effects.

    Promoting Skin Wellness

    We’re all looking for ways to keep our skin looking bright and refreshed, and walnuts may just be the secret ingredient you need. Walnuts have been shown to promote skin wellness due to their antioxidant profile. These antioxidants can help manage oxidative stress and protect your skin from damage caused by free radicals. In particular, the levels of antioxidants are exceptionally high in the pellicle (skin) of the walnuts. And as we already mentioned earlier, walnuts are a great source of omega-3s, which are also known to help keep skin looking glowing and healthy.

    Strengthening Immunity

    The array of nutrients in walnuts has been shown to help support immune function. While research in humans is still ongoing, animal studies have shown that walnuts have the potential to support a healthy immune system thanks to their nutrient profile. For instance, omega-3s have been tied to improving the responses of certain compounds, which can help support overall immune health.

    Additionally, because of their fiber content, walnuts have been shown to support the gut microbiome by synthesizing beneficial gut microbes and improving gut diversity. And, since the gut makes up 70% of our immune system, it’s no surprise that a flourishing microbiome can result in stronger immunity.

    Walnuts' Role in Weight Management

    So, how do these small nuts play a role in weight management? Well, it all leads back to its dietary fiber content. Let’s explain some of the science behind this mechanism.

    Satiety and Appetite Control

    Fiber is an essential component of a balanced diet because of its role in promoting satiety and controlling appetite. Fiber helps boost satiety by slowing gastric emptying and making meals feel more filling. By adding fiber to your diet, you’re likely to stay satisfied for longer periods of time and reduce cravings between meals.

    A study conducted by Harvard Medical School found that when participants with metabolic syndrome consumed a shake containing walnuts for breakfast, they reported feeling more satisfied and less hungry after just three days. This suggests that including walnuts in your dietary regimen could be an effective way to help manage your weight.

    Optimizing Metabolism

    One of the ways in which walnuts support metabolism is by providing essential nutrients like healthy fats, protein, and fiber. These nutrients work in synergy to support various metabolic processes in the body, including energy production, blood sugar stability (already in normal range), nutrient absorption, and waste removal.

    In addition, by optimizing metabolism, walnuts can support a healthy body composition and muscle tone. Care/of also carries a product that does just that – and it has been flying off the shelves. The Metabolizer supplement contains chromium and apple extract which has been shown to support a healthy metabolism and unlock energy from food.*

    Integrating Walnuts into a Balanced Diet

    With walnuts being such a versatile food, it’s easy to incorporate them into your diet on a regular basis.

    Meal Ideas for Everyday Nourishment

    One simple way to include more walnuts in your diet is by adding them as a topping to salads or oatmeal for added texture and crunch. You can also make your own homemade trail mix by mixing together walnuts, dried fruit, and sunflower seeds. Additionally, blending walnuts into smoothies and shakes is another easy way to get your daily dose of these beneficial nutrients. Last, but certainly not least, walnuts can be a wonderful and delicious addition to any baked goods, such as muffins, breads, and cookies.

    Exploring Serving Sizes and Frequency

    It’s important to consider the serving sizes and frequency of walnuts (or any nuts) when incorporating them into your meals and snacks. This is because the serving sizes for nuts and seeds are small, so you don’t need a lot of them to be able to reap the benefits. While walnuts are extremely nutritious, they are high in calories and fat, so it’s important to practice portion control.

    A standard serving size for walnuts is one ounce (or about 14 halves), which provides 185 calories, 4 grams of protein, 18 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbohydrates, and 2 grams of fiber. Consuming 1-2 ounces of walnuts per day is the perfect amount to include in your diet.

    The Bottom Line

    Walnuts are nutritious powerhouses that offer a wide range of health benefits. From promoting heart health and cognitive function to aiding in weight management and supporting healthy skin, walnuts can be a valuable addition to any diet. The high fiber, omega-3s, and antioxidant content of walnuts make them an excellent choice for snacks, toppings, and smoothie ingredients, but it's important to practice portion control and balance them with other nutritious foods. Incorporating just 1-2 ounces per day is enough to provide significant health benefits for both your body and mind. So, the next time you are looking for a healthy snack that will boost brain power and keep you feeling satisfied, consider reaching for a handful of walnuts!

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Jordana Tobelem, RD
    Freelance Contributor
    Jordana Tobelem is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys helping others become the best versions of themselves through proper nutrition education. Jordana is passionate about promoting lifestyle changes through nutrition, physical activity, and behavior to create a superior quality of life. She uses her experience in the clinical field of dietetics to provide consulting services to an array of healthcare brands and companies. Jordana loves finding the most current research in nutrition to create meaningful content to share with her clients. Jordana has been a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics since 2018 and also holds certifications in both Personal Training and Health Coaching.