Oftentimes, the simplest foods are best for your health, and this is certainly the case for nuts, in which Mother Nature has crafted a nearly perfect package of protein, healthy fats, fiber, plant sterols, antioxidants, and many vitamins and minerals
Among nuts, the case may be made that walnuts are king, as research shows they may boost your health in a number of ways at very easy-to-achieve “doses.”
Eating just one ounce of walnuts a day (that’s about seven shelled walnuts) may be all it takes to take advantage of their beneficial properties.
Walnuts are an excellent source of several vitamins and minerals, including:
- Copper — This mineral promotes heart health. It also helps maintain bone, nerve and immune system function
- Folic acid — Also known as folate or vitamin B9, folic acid has many important biological functions. A folic acid deficiency during pregnancy may cause birth defects
- Phosphorus — About 1% of our body is made up of phosphorus, a mineral that is mainly present in bones. It has numerous functions in the body
- Vitamin B6 — This vitamin may strengthen the immune system and support nerve health. A vitamin B6 deficiency may cause anemia
- Manganese — This trace mineral is found in the highest amounts in nuts, whole grains, fruits and vegetables
- Vitamin E — Compared to other nuts, walnuts contain high levels of a special form of vitamin E called gamma-tocopherol
Some notable plant compounds found in walnuts include —
- Ellagic acid — This antioxidant is found in high amounts in walnuts, along with other related compounds like ellagitannins. Ellagic acid may reduce the risk of heart disease and help suppress cancer formation
- Catechin — Catechin is a flavonoid antioxidant that may have various health benefits. It may also promote heart health
- Melatonin — This neurohormone helps regulate the body clock. It is also a powerful antioxidant that may reduce the risk of heart disease
- Phytic acid — Also known as phytate, phytic acid may impair the absorption of minerals, such as iron and zinc, from the digestive tract
Health benefits of Walnuts —
- For the heart — Due to the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the walnuts, they are very beneficial to the cardiovascular system. It has been found that eating just a few walnuts per day can help reduce the blood pressure, so those with high blood pressure take note! The omega-3 fatty acids are known to reduce the bad cholesterol in the body and encourage the production of the good cholesterol. This is again beneficial for the heart
- For Immunity — Walnuts have high amounts of antioxidants in them that keep your immune system healthy and prevent the onset of diseases. Add some walnuts to your diet every day to keep yourself fit as a fiddle
- For Brain Health — The omega-3 fatty acids present in the walnuts are also good for the brain. Having food rich in omega-3 fatty acids keeps the nervous system working smoothly and improves your memory
- For Inflammatory Diseases — Those with inflammatory diseases like asthma, arthritis and eczema can benefit from walnuts as they have high amounts of fatty acid in them
- For bone health — Walnuts contain an essential fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid. This alpha-linolenic acid and its compounds have been associated with stronger and healthier bones. Also, as you intake omega-3 fatty acids through walnuts, inflammation decreases, and this is related to keeping the bones stronger for a longer duration
- For better sleep — Walnuts have melatonin, and this compound is said to be associated with better sleep patterns. Also, the omega-3 fatty acids keep the blood pressure low and help relieve stress.
- For pregnancy — Having a walnut daily can greatly benefit those who are expecting. Walnuts contain healthy vitamin B-Complex groups like folates, riboflavin, thiamin, etc. These are necessary for a pregnant woman and the fetus.
- For constipation — Walnuts are rich in fiber, and they are a great way to keep your digestive system functioning properly. All humans require fiber on a daily basis to keep their bowels functioning correctly. Usually, the common sources of protein, such as meat and dairy products, lack fiber. Having walnuts daily can help you with digestive problems and keep your bowels functioning properly
- Delays skin aging — Walnuts are good for the skin as they are packed with B-vitamins. Vitamin B is an excellent stress and mood manager. Lower stress levels result in a better skin. Increased stress levels can result in the earlier onset of wrinkles, thus inducing faster aging. The presence of the B-vitamins, together with Vitamin E, a natural antioxidant, helps in fighting the free radicals induced due to stress. This further delays the aging process
- Longer, Stronger Hair — Walnuts are good sources of potassium, omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids. All these ingredients strengthen the hair follicles. Thus, the regular application of walnut oil on the hair leaves you with longer, stronger, healthier, and glowing hair
- Natural Anti-Dandruff Agent — Walnut oil is widely used in producing hair oils due to its rich moisturizing properties. Hence, it is widely suggested as a natural anti-dandruff agent
- Healthier Scalp — The regular application of walnut oil keeps the scalp moisturized and hydrated, thus keeping medical conditions such as dermatitis at bay. The antifungal properties of walnut oil are beneficial in preventing the infections triggered by ringworm. This further ensures a healthier and cleaner scalp. A healthy scalp will lead to healthy hair
Adverse Effects and Individual Concerns –
- In general, walnuts are very healthy. However, some people may be allergic to them.
- Walnuts can also reduce mineral absorption in certain individuals.
- Walnuts are among the eight most allergenic foods
- Like all seeds, walnuts are high in phytic acid. Phytic acid, or phytate, is a plant substance that impairs the absorption of minerals, such as iron and zinc, from the digestive tract. This only applies to meals that contain high-phytate foods.
- Walnuts are rich in heart-healthy fats and high in antioxidants.
- Additionally, regular consumption of walnuts may improve brain health and help prevent heart disease and cancer.
- These nuts are easily incorporated into the diet, since they can be eaten on their own or added to many different foods.
- Simply put, eating walnuts may be one of the easiest things you can do to improve your health.
I’m Dr. Malini Bhat MD (Ayu); an Ayurvedic Doctor and a health blogger. Follow me on social media to get daily health tips which you can easily adapt to a healthy lifestyle.