Crack the wall to get the nut! Nuts form a special diet offering numerous heavenly nutrients to ensure a healthy living. In this article, we’ll reveal hard to believe health benefits of walnuts
Walnuts are one of the highly consumed nuts due to their round the year availability because of their innocuous storage in unshelled forms. However, late summers and early winters account for the harvesting of walnuts enough to store for the entire year. Among all the countries, the United States accounts for the highest production and consumption of walnuts.
Walnut Constituents: Anti-oxidants and Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fats
The eminent amounts of omega-3 polyunsaturated fats in walnuts account for the healthiest benefit for the incorporation of walnuts in daily diet. Walnuts are rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is referred to as a source of polyunsaturated fats via plants. Walnuts have proven to be the highest and richest source of polyphenol antioxidants according to a study in “Food and Function” as compared to peanuts and other tree nuts.
Walnuts, even though high in calories, are advised for reducing weight because of the lesser amounts of saturated fats and higher amounts of fiber.
Walnuts are considered expedient in lowering blood pressure, reducing bad cholesterol, preventing blood clot formation, reducing inflammation, improving the health of bones, increasing cognitive abilities along with lowering the risk of development of many diseases (diabetes, cardiovascular dysfunction, metabolic syndrome, and cancer).
It is advised to store walnuts in airtight containers in either freezer (if you are intending to store them for year-long) or refrigerator (if you are intending to consume them in few days) pertaining to the oxidation of polyunsaturated fats upon exposure to air.
English Walnuts and Black Walnuts: History and Nutrition
(Juglans regia) gained their name because of their worldwide supply by British merchants after emerging from the Middle East. Spanish missionaries, in around 1700s, started cultivating walnut trees in California. Out of these, 99% of English walnuts are sold in the entire United States where 2/3 of these come from Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. As per California Walnut Commission, you can get 190 calories along with 4g of proteins and 2g of fiber from a handful of English walnuts (seven whole walnuts or equivalent to one ounce). This particular amount provides for good content of vitamin E and other elemental nutrients (copper, potassium, phosphorus, and manganese). The walnuts that make to the shells of the supermarkets are English walnuts crafting their way in cookies, cakes, brownies, and many winter desserts.
(Juglans nigra) emerged from the United States where they are grown wildly. However, the black walnuts are far less cultivated as compared to English walnuts. Black walnuts have the same nutritional value as the handful of English walnuts except they have lesser unsaturated fats but are richer in selenium and arginine. They are attained by handpicking and are found as a scrumptious ingredient in ice-creams. Their rare existence makes them expensive than English walnuts. Black walnuts have bold aroma and taste (in comparison to English walnuts) and their shells are harder to crack open the inner fruit. One specific drawback associated with black walnuts is their staining that can ruin your clothes, your manicure, and even your working place.
The Tale of Two Walnuts
A true walnut lover never settles for any one of the two (English walnuts and Black walnuts) rather dig this love in the form of incorporating the love in different recipes. “The Tale of Two Walnuts” is a true illustration of the loved one has for the fall pertaining to the walnuts it harvests. A child who has spent his childhood under the love of her grandmother whom she used to visit every fall to gain the flavor and aroma of walnuts which she planted on her farm. Even after her grandmother passed away, she went back just to revive the love of her grandmother through those walnuts she planted. The walnut trees returned the love through their drooping branches heavenly loaded with fruit. The incorporation of this love in different patisserie and other food items part of special festivities makes the bond with this fall souvenir even stronger than that was before.
Walnuts for the Prevention of Atherosclerosis
Walnuts have proven to be the highest and richest source of poly-phenol antioxidants according to a study in “Food and Function” as compared to peanuts and other tree nuts. Daily healthy consumption of walnuts in diet corresponds to decrease in the risk of development of atherosclerosis (building up of bad cholesterol “LDL” in the arteries after oxidation) owing to the high amounts of antioxidants (melatonin, vitamin E and polyphenols) that are found majorly in the skin of the walnuts. Absence of antioxidants brings about the oxidation of bad cholesterol leading to fatal conditions of the heart and arteries due to building up of oxidized cholesterol in the arteries disturbing the normal blood flow and hence causing abnormal blood pressure.
Walnuts and a Healthy Brain
Irrespective of its outer look, walnuts have much to offer to improve the brain and cognitive functions. Polyunsaturated fats, vitamin E, polyphenols and other antioxidants are the mains in reducing the inflammation and oxidative stress. According to a study, mice were studied for Alzheimer’s disease for ten months in which they were fed with 28-45 g of walnuts which significantly improved the learning abilities and memory along with a reduction in anxiety as compared to the control group which was not given any form of nuts. To get more firm conclusions regarding the effects of walnuts on the human brain, more studies are required.
Walnuts having the Power to Control Blood Pressure
Heart attack and stroke are two conditions associated with increased blood pressure. Walnuts have proven to reduce the blood pressure in already established patients and in those who have normal blood pressure but are confronting stress in one way or the other.
A 4-year PREDIMED diet was considered in around 7500 patients (with increased risk of heart-related disorders) where they were introduced with 1 g of mixed nuts along with Mediterranean diet out of which half were walnuts. 0.65 mmHg decrease in diastolic blood pressure was observed in individuals with nuts made part of their diet in comparison to those who only followed a healthy controlled diet. Even though the difference observed was quite small, but these small changes bring about a huge impact on the overall health of the heart and such small should never be ignored or taken for granted.
Walnuts and blood Fats
As discussed before, elevated levels of bad cholesterol “LDL” along with triglycerides have a strong effect on the deterioration of heart condition and working. Antioxidants present in walnuts prevent the oxidation of bad cholesterol thereby stopping them from getting piled up or accumulate in the arteries preventing the normal blood flow. Hence, this abnormal blood flow brings about further disturbance in the normal working of the heart and in turn the overall body. Apolipoprotein-B is a marker of the LDL particle count in the blood which also has been proven to decrease upon the incorporation of walnuts in the diet of an individual prone to heat-related illnesses.
Walnuts and Healthy Bones
High amounts of minerals such as copper and manganese in walnuts have made walnuts a good choice for the healthy maintenance of bones. The risk of osteoporosis increases in people going through severe copper deficiency because this brings about a decrease in bone mineral density. Elastin and collagen form the supporting system of the body and their maintenance and strength lie in the adequate consumption of copper. Copper along with manganese and calcium plays an important role in eradication osteoporosis. Magnesium is of the utmost importance when it comes to bone formation and is abundantly found in walnuts.
Walnuts and Reduction in Inflammation
Oxidative stress being the sole reason for causing inflammation has led to many fatal illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, cancers, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. This oxidative stress and inflammation can only be avoided if adequate amounts of antioxidants are made part of the daily intake. Polyphenols, being antioxidant in nature, along with some other subgroup of antioxidants “ellagitannins” in walnuts have a specific role in the reduction of inflammation by decreasing oxidative stress. These ellagitannins upon interacting with gut bacteria are converted into “urolithins” which are quite important in getting rid of inflammation.
Other compounds found in walnuts that are helpful in reducing inflammation are ALA omega-3 unsaturated fats, amino acid arginine, and magnesium.
Walnuts and Decreased Risk of Cancers
Walnuts have shown through observational studies (animal, test-tube as well as humans) their effectiveness in decreasing the risks associated with certain cancers like one associated with inflammation (colorectal cancer) and other related to hormonal issues (breast cancer and prostate cancer). The presence of ellagitannins in walnuts is one reason for the reduction of inflammation through their conversion to urolithins by the gut bacteria thereby reducing the risk of development of colorectal cancer. One other attribute associated with urolithins is their ability to block the receptor sites for the binding of hormones which are helpful in reducing the risk of developing cancers associated with hormonal disorders like breast cancer and prostate cancer. However, more data through human studies are needed to further support the findings.
Walnuts and Maintenance of Healthy Gut
Gut microbiota and other health-promoting bacteria if found inadequate amount in your gut can improve the overall health of your gut and hence your bodily health. There are certain illnesses like cancer, obesity and other heart conditions which could arise due to inflammation as a result of unhealthy gut or gut microbiota. Your gut microbiota is a true reflection of your daily intake or simply what you eat in a day. Walnuts are one of the most trusted ways to improve the health of your gut. Consumption of around 43 g of walnuts by 194 people for eight continuous weeks has proven to significantly increase the health of their gut through gut microbiota and overall health. As compared to the time period in which no walnuts were consumed.
Walnuts improved the gut health-promoting bacteria which produced a fat referred to as butyrate which improves the overall health of the gut by nourishing it.
Walnuts for Weight loss and Healthy Aging
Walnuts are rich in calories however there is 21% less absorption of energy from them as compared to the increased amount of nutrients. Walnuts have known to suppress the appetite thereby decreasing the weight. According to a study, 10 obese people under controlled trials were given walnut smoothie containing 48 g of walnuts for 5 consecutive days. After the trials two things were noticed, one of these individuals experienced a significant loss in appetite along with hunger. Secondly, this smoothie brought about the activation of a certain part of the brain which made the individual resist certain types of foods like French fries. However, more studies are needed to confirm the fact.
Walnuts along with calories are also a rich source of vitamins, fibers, minerals, fats and other organic compounds which are important in maintaining the healthy balance of the body by preventing the impairment in mobility commonly associated with aging. A healthy diet as proven to lower such mobility associated impairments in aging women by 13%.
Controlling Type 2 Diabetes with Walnuts
Suppression of appetite by walnuts is a well-proven fact which has a major role in weight reduction thereby contributing to controlling type 2 diabetes. However, there are mechanisms out of the concern of weight reduction that is helpful in reducing blood sugar. As recommended, intake of cold-pressed walnut oil along with for three months helps not only in reducing blood sugar levels at fasting state but also hemoglobin A1C levels both by 8% in comparison to those who only used medicines and healthy diet. But no significant weight loss was observed after intake of this oil for three months.
Maintenance of Male Reproductive Health Through Walnuts
Men are more prone to damage to their reproductive health at the hands of a westernized diet comprising of processed foods that are linked to decrease sperm count, vitality and male fertility. According to a study, men who incorporated walnuts in their daily diet improved not only their sperm count but also their shape, mobility, and vitality as compared to those who only got their hands-on western-style food. Walnuts also reduce the oxidative stress in the sperm membrane thereby protecting it from any damage.
What quarter (1/4) cup of walnuts has to offer?
One-quarter cup of walnuts accounts for 18 grams of fat, higher than the many other meals, which is taken as “good fat” that is required by the healthy working of the body. 13g of this are polyunsaturated fats and 2.5 g are monounsaturated fats instead of bad fats that meat and various dairy products have to offer as they cause a rise in the blood cholesterol levels. Walnuts contain 2.5 g of omega-3 fats, which is five times higher than that of pecans, making them the nuts with the highest content of omega-3 followed by pecans.
The high-fat content is responsible for the high caloric content of walnuts with a one-quarter cup equivalent to 190 calories in total. Around 9 calories are derived from one gram of fats making a total of 162 calories out of 18 g of fats. The remaining calories are the contribution of 4 g of carbohydrates and 4 g of proteins (each playing its role by supplying 4 calories).
The high poly-phenol antioxidants amount in walnuts accounts for 69.3 µmol/g (micromoles per gram) in raw walnuts, however, this amount increases to 107 µmol/g (micromoles per gram) upon roasting. One-quarter cup of walnuts fulfills the same ratio of copper requirement in our diet and double of this ratio fulfills the manganese intake requirement in our diet.
The daily amount of walnuts that should be vouched for is a one-quarter cup (which is equivalent to one ounce) or just a handful of walnuts or 12-14 halves of walnuts.