Health Benefits of Walnuts

Health Benefits of Walnuts

Enriched with a plethora of nutrients and many health benefits, walnuts have become a common food item in many parts of the world. Walnuts are the edible seeds of the walnut tree belonging to the genus Juglans. The walnut fruit is covered by a green colored husk, which is inedible. Inside the husk is the shell which encloses the seed or kernel. The seeds are rich in oil and protected with a brown colored seed coat, which is high in antioxidants. These antioxidants are responsible for protecting the seeds from the effects of the atmospheric oxygen and in preventing rancidity. There are mainly two species of walnuts that are cultivated for their seeds- the English or Persian walnut (Juglans regia) and the Black walnut (Juglans nigra). Walnuts are cultivated in many parts of the world including China, Chile, France, India, Iran, Mexico, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United States.

Nutritional value of walnuts

Walnuts not only taste great but are also a wonderful source of energy. They are a storehouse of numerous vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients that are health benefitting and essential for maintaining maximum health. Walnuts are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and many other B-complex vitamins like riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid and folate. They are also a rich source of many minerals like copper, manganese, molybdenum, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium and zinc. Vitamin E in Walnuts is in form of beneficial gamma-tocopherol form.

Walnuts have high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids like, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), linoleic acid and arachidonic acids. They are popular for their antioxidant properties due to the presence of several phytonutrients including ellagic acid, carotenoids, melatonin, and poly-phenolic compounds. A single ounce of walnuts can give 183 calories of energy. They are low in cholesterol, low in fat and contain good amounts of protein and dietary fiber.

Health Benefits of Walnuts

Walnuts can be considered as a whole food with an exceptional nutritional profile. Each walnut you consume is loaded with nutrients that contribute to a wide range of health benefits, from protecting your heart to giving you a good night’s sleep.

Cardiovascular benefits of walnuts

Walnut seed shell inside its green husk

Walnut seed shell inside its green husk

The most important aspect for which walnuts are well known for is their ability to provide health benefits for your cardiovascular and circulatory system. Walnuts are probably one of the highest sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is helpful in improving the health of your heart by thinning blood and lowering your risks of heart attacks. Walnuts are rich in antioxidants that protect your heart from the damages caused by free radicals. Studies revealed that the consumption of walnuts resulted in lowering of LDL or bad cholesterol levels, increasing the elasticity of the arteries and decreasing vascular cell adhesion levels, all of which are associated with atherosclerosis.

Walnuts lower cholesterol levels

Walnuts are a great solution for high cholesterol problems. Scientists have found out the people who consumed walnuts regularly experienced a reduction in total cholesterol levels and LDL or bad cholesterol levels and a significant increase in the HDL or good cholesterol levels. Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that are capable of lowering the triglycerides in your body, reducing inflammation and inhibiting the formation of plaque in the arteries.

Walnuts for high blood pressure

Blood pressure can be controlled by exercising regularly, eating a healthy and well-balanced diet, and by reducing stress. High triglyceride and cholesterol levels are often associated with accumulation of plaque in the blood vessels, which leads to hypertension or high blood pressure. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts help in lowering total cholesterol and the triglyceride levels in people who have high level of cholesterol, thus helping in controlling blood pressure.

Today many people in US suffer from Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) which includes metabolic problems like high cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure, etc. Consumption of walnuts regularly for about 2-3 months reduces MetS related symptoms.

Walnuts benefits in treatment of type 2 diabetes

Studies show that the regular consumption of walnuts can have a positive effect on people suffering from diabetes. It helps in controlling blood sugar levels and blood lipid levels. According to a research conducted by the Yale University School of Medicine, walnuts helped in improving the functions of the blood vessel in people with type 2 diabetes. Another study indicated that walnuts helped in reducing lipid levels in type 2 diabetics. Walnuts are high in alpha-linolenic acid, which has been found to improve diabetic neuropathy. Walnut leaves also exhibit hypoglycemic effect and helpful for treatment of type 2 diabetes, as studies have found.

Read more – Natural food for diabetes

Walnuts have anti-cancer benefits

Walnuts are rich in many nutrients that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. These nutrients help in preventing many diseases including cancer. Free radicals in your body are responsible for causing oxidative stress, which is often linked to cancer and other health conditions. Antioxidants help in eliminating these free radicals and preventing damage caused by oxidation of cells. According to research, the consumption of walnuts has been associated with reduced risks of both breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Walnuts for digestion

Walnuts are rich in dietary fiber which helps in proper digestion of food. Fibers are required for bowel movements and can prevent constipation. Dietary fibers also prevents absorption of cholesterol in intestine.

Walnuts for weight loss

Walnuts are a rich source of healthy fatty acids, protein, fiber and antioxidants that provides excellent nutrition to your body.  All these nutrients helps in controlling your appetite by making you feel fuller for long hours. Walnut cuts belly fat – Studies have shown that walnut can reduce deposition of fats in mid section of body – abdominal adiposity.

Walnuts boost your immune system

Walnuts are rich in many vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids that help in strengthening your immune system. These nuts contain ellagic acid, an antioxidant that helps in boosting your immune system so that it can protect your body against serious health problems and life threatening diseases. The antioxidants in walnuts are also useful in destroying the free radicals that weaken your immune system and make you prone to ill health.

Walnuts and bone health

According to studies, the consumption of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) can improve bone health. Walnuts are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and their regular intake has been found to increase calcium deposition in your bones, increase absorption of calcium, and improve the strength of your bones by enhancing the synthesis of collagen. Walnuts also contain manganese, boron and copper that has considerable effects on the health of your bones. Boron helps in reducing the excretion of magnesium and calcium, and hence improves Vitamin D activity and bone metabolism. Copper plays a vital role in developing and maintaining the health of blood vessels, bone, joints and skin. Manganese is important for the production of connective tissue in your bones and cartilage.

Walnuts are the ultimate brain food

Your brain requires healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids to function at its best and to maintain proper health. Walnuts that look similar to the human brain are bursting with omega-3 fatty acids, making them the ultimate brain food. Research shows that the low intake of omega-3 fatty acids can contribute to cognitive degeneration and depression. It has been found that, making walnuts a part of your daily diet is excellent in improving memory. Recent studies also indicate that walnuts have been effectively used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Walnuts for better sleep

Proper sleep is extremely important to maintain good health and optimum functioning of your body. Melatonin is an important hormone that plays a key role in regulating your sleep. It has been found that the consumption of walnuts increases the melatonin levels in your body by a staggering three folds. A few walnuts as a pre-bedtime snack can therefore help prevent insomnia or sleeplessness. Read more – Natural food for insomnia

Walnut reduces fatigue

Fatigue often results from reduced muscular strength and may result from physical stress and exercise. Walnuts are believed to increase metabolic activity and reduce fatigue. Animal studies confirm these results and anti-fatigue activity. Walnuts can help elevate exercise tolerance and stamina.

Walnuts for pregnant women

Walnuts are considered to be one of the top foods for pregnancy. These nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B, folate, thiamin, riboflavin, and many other nutrients that are not only essential for the development of the baby but also for maintaining good health of the mother.

Walnut protects from infection

Walnut leaves have been traditionally used in treatment of toothache and fungal infections. This can be attributed to presence of eugenol and methyl salicylate in the leaves of Walnut.

Walnuts for healthy skin

Walnuts are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are great for your skin. These nutrients, along with Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant is very helpful in fighting the free radicals and inhibiting the process of ageing. Walnut oil is a wonderful moisturizer, when applied to your skin will keep it nourished and glowing. It is therefore an excellent solution for dry skin. Regular use of walnut oil can help in reducing skin problems like wrinkles, fine line and dark circles.

  • Homemade walnut yoghurt scrub – Blend ¼ cup of walnuts to find powder. Mix this with some fresh yoghurt and apply this to your face.
  • Walnut honey body scrub – Blend some walnuts in a processor. This coarse powder can stored in refrigerator. When this is to be used, mix 2 tsp of walnut powder with 1 tsp honey and 1 tsp olive oil. Apply this to your body and leave it for few minutes. This shall moisturize your skin.
  • Walnut Sugar Scrub – Mix 3-4 tablespoon of sugar with teaspoon of walnut oil. Add to this pinch of cinnamon or vanilla extract. Rub this over face or arms and leave it for few minutes. You will get clean and soft skin.

Walnuts for healthier hair

Walnuts, whether taken internally or externally, are known to be highly beneficial for improving the health of your hair. The high amounts of nutrients in these nuts strengthen the hair follicles and prevent breakage of hair. Applying walnut oil on your scalp helps in moisturizing the scalp and preventing conditions like dandruff, psoriosis and dermatitis.

Home made Walnut Rinse – Walnut hulls contain natural dye which can be used to darken you hair naturally. Place around 2 tsp of crushed black walnut hulls in the tea bag. Boil 3 cups of water. Allow walnut tea bag to steep for 15 – 20 minutes in this water. Leave it overnight. Rinse your hair with diluted walnut mixture after shampoo. You can also try out making home made natural dye from walnut, similar to heena.

Side effects of walnuts

Walnuts are safe for everyone when consumed in the right amounts. Although the effects of consuming larger amounts are not known, some studies reveal that these nuts may cause certain mild side effects. As with any kind of nuts, walnuts may cause allergic reactions in some people. Excess consumption of these nuts may sometimes cause bloating, softening of stools and weight gain.

Eating a fistful of walnuts daily is a great and natural way to improve your nutrition and health. Walnuts are one of the tastiest nuts that contain a wide array of potent nutrients that help in keeping you strong and healthy and also in preventing many kinds of health problems.

How to choose the right walnuts? Walnuts come in different sizes, all equally good. Check shells of walnut, avoid one which has cracks and holes. Good walnuts can be distinguished by plump and crisp fruit.

How to store walnuts? You can store walnuts within its shell in dry airtight container. Avoid direct sunshine, this increases shelf life of walnuts. Once removed from shell, it should be consumed quickly, as fatty acids may turn rancid. One can store it in refrigerator in airtight container, as they can absorb flavors of other foods.

Best ways to enjoy walnut health benefits: Walnuts are common ingredient in our kitchen. Our chocolates, cakes, cookies often contain walnuts. It has slight bitter taste, but quite distinct and nutty. Some other ways to enjoy walnuts

  • You can munch walnuts raw as a snack. Eating 3-4 walnuts regularly is an healthy habit.
  • Add crushed walnuts to yoghurt or fruit smoothies
  • Add walnuts in your salads
  • Make walnut spread at home by grinding it with garlic, salt, lemon juice, olive oil and black pepper.
  • Walnuts like cashew can be used in making gravy for your vegetables or chicken.
  • Make homemade walnut granola along with honey, vanilla and spices.
  • Walnuts goes well with caramel, chocolate, blue cheese, pasta and raisins.
Image Credits: Flickr - Chris Brown, Wikimedia - Böhringer Friedrich

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