Grab a pack of walnuts and let’s celebrate National Nutrition Month because walnuts are just about the healthiest snack around. Honestly, to say that walnuts are a nutritious food is a bit of an understatement. The truth is, there are so many health benefits, with more being discovered every day, that experts gather annually at the University of California, Davis, for a walnut conference discussing the latest walnut health research and have done so for 50 years!
The Humble Walnut, the Most Nutritious Nut of All
All nuts are considered beneficial for good health, but walnuts have a higher amount of antioxidant activity than any other nut. These antioxidants are important because they can help fight oxidative damage in the body, including damage caused by “bad” LDL cholesterol, which promotes atherosclerosis, which is a build-up of cholesterol plaque in the arteries’ walls causing an obstruction of blood flow.
Did you know that walnuts are also significantly higher in omega-3 fat than any other nut? The rounded, reddish-brown nut actually provides 2.5 grams per 1-ounce of walnut. Omega-3 fat also called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), is an essential fat and each gram of ALA eaten a day lowers the risk of dying from heart disease by 10%.
Walnuts & Disease Prevention
Most diseases are caused by inflammation from oxidative stress, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. But several plant compounds and nutrients found in walnuts like polyphenols can help fight oxidative stress and reduce inflammation. Meaning, eating walnuts can help to prevent numerous chronic diseases.
Specifically, research shows that eating walnuts may reduce your risk of certain cancers, including breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers. Reportedly, certain gut microbes provided by eating walnuts can convert these to compounds called urolithins. Urolithins have anti-inflammatory properties, which reduce the likelihood of suffering from various kinds of cancer.
Good for the Gut and Weight Control
Eating walnuts not only nourishes the overall body but is especially beneficial to bacteria that live in the gut. Without healthy bacteria in the gut, there is an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, and cancer.
Gut health is directly related to weight and weight loss. While walnuts are calorie-dense, studies suggest that the energy absorbed from the nuts is 21% lower than would be expected based on their nutritional makeup. Walnuts are also considered to be an appetite suppressant, which is positive news for dieters looking to not overindulge in unhealthy foods.
Because they help control and maintain weight, walnuts are also linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Studies suggest that eating walnuts will also aid in controlling blood sugar levels, which is critical for those individuals with type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes.
This is all good news in terms of simple steps to embrace nutritional eating habits and lead a healthy lifestyle. And while March is National Nutrition Month, it remains important to take care of one’s heart, mind, and body. Thankfully, the walnut has positive effects on all three, so reach into the cupboard and let’s get snacking.