Health Benefits Of Walnuts

  • 1st Revision: Jacinta Chinwendu

Introduction

Shelled nuts are an essential part of many meals and diets today. These little wonders are chock-full of lots of essential vitamins and nutrients. Among these nuts, walnuts with their significant impact on cardiac health are basically royalty. Interestingly, walnuts were referred to as royal nuts in the Byzantine era. 

Recent studies published by the American Heart Foundations' journal, Circulation shows a 15% reduction in  the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases among daily consumers of shelled nuts.1 In the same report mortality resulting from CVD diseases went down 23%.  

We will be finding out how this intriguing and tasty member of the nut family is significant in maintaining and improving health today. 

About walnuts,

Walnuts are about golf-sized and have a hard, tan exterior shell. The nut itself is milk-colored or golden brown and is characterized by a seam running through its middle. A few of them have a slightly bitter taste at first, which is then quickly covered up by a milder and almost sweet taste. 

Health benefits of walnuts

As a nut, the health benefits of walnuts are numerous. What makes walnuts even more unique is that their fatty acid composition is mostly of the mono, unsaturated class. The knowledge of the complete health benefits of walnuts is still a subject of research and inquiry today. As a result of the Omega 3 present in them, walnuts have magnificent cognition enhancement benefits. 

They are also speculated to show significant impact when used in handling depression, diabetes (type 2), and even stroke.2

Mental health promotion

The health benefits of walnuts are quite prominent in the field of brain development and mental health promotion. The work by Abhi C. and Ved C., 2020. shed light on how the incorporation of walnuts in diets could significantly affect the impact of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease globally.3 They pointed out the fact that nutrition has become a huge part of modern disease prevention, treatment, and management. 

Omega 3 fatty acid is also a beneficial supplement for mental development and protection. This is contained in abundant quantities in walnuts.  

Promotes good coronary health

One of the first discovered benefits of walnuts was that they help protect and promote good coronary health. Over time it has been discovered that not only do they significantly reduce the risk of high blood pressure, but they also help prevent artery-related coronary diseases.2

Walnuts as a result of their inflammation-reducing effect, walnuts help reduce chances of clotting which could lead to coronary diseases such as heart attacks. 

Additionally, walnuts help to cleanse and strengthen the artery walls.

Rich in calorie, rich in “good” fat

For those on a calorie-deficient diet, walnuts might not need to be fully incorporated into their diet. Even eaten in a little quantities, walnuts could provide nearly 70 percent of the necessary calories for a day.

Walnuts contain negligible levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDLs). It is the accumulation of these LDLs or bad fat that is majorly responsible for fat plaque formation in arteries. Not only do walnuts contain them in low quantities, but they are also speculated to assist in mopping up excess LDLs in the bloodstream. 

Additionally, walnuts basically provide all your calorie and fat needs, without you having to put on any extra weight.4 Research showed that it is possible to include half a cup of walnuts (about 380 calories) into a diet plan without the risk of adding weight. For all intents and purposes, it is possible to eat your cake and have it. Or in this case, your walnuts. 

Beneficial for good eye health maintenance

Walnuts are also beneficial for the eyes. Vitamin A and other carotenoids contained in walnuts such as Lutein are popularly used to improve normal vision. Lutein has a protective effect on the photoreceptor cells in the eyes. It does this as a result of its blue light filtering function which in turn damage caused by the light (phototoxic damage).5 

Lutein is also believed to have a sort of localization ability. This basically means that in the retina, Lutein concentrates in areas where it is needed. It provides extra protection and significantly reduces inflammation. 

In fact, lutein has been shown to improve and in some cases prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Which is one of the major causes of blindness or failing sight as people get older (especially in developed countries).5

While walnuts do not contain them in loads, the little quantities contained are also not to be neglected. However, if one has access to more lutein supplements, they could also be used. 

Promotion of immune health

Walnuts also contain a lot of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients. There is now abundant evidence that lutein significantly reduces the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Recent studies have shown that these species actually have background roles in causing various diseases.

Unfortunately, they are a product of the body’s various metabolizing and detoxification processes. So while we cannot totally avoid them, we do all we can to limit how much the body retains. Maintaining proper ROS balance (production and elimination are balanced) contributes to a better quality of life

While Lutein is not superoxide dismutase (SOD), or glutathione peroxide.6, it is also an antioxidant. Thankfully it is readily available in a lot of fruits and nuts.

Work perfectly as antioxidants

Among all known nuts, walnuts have been recognized to have the most antioxidizing effects. While we previously focused on Lutein and its effects on ROS, the antioxidizing effect of walnuts extends far beyond that. 

Vitamin E for instance is a natural antioxidant found abundantly in walnuts. This particular vitamin has been recognized as having an antioxidizing effect that is focused on the skin. It is a powerful antioxidant that is becoming increasingly popular in the cosmetic and skin therapy industries. 

Promote good skin health

Walnuts have powerful antioxidizing potential. This makes it excellent for skin care. It helps protect the skin from the harmful effect of free radicals.2 It is also known to have a reducing and preventive effect on inflammation. So not only do walnuts protect and promote good skin health, but they also help in healing and rejuvenating the skin.

Vitamin E found in the sebum (body oil) has been shown to reduce with age. It is an essential part of the protective layer formed by the sebum to protect against UV rays and keep the skin moist. Obviously, a replenishment of this depleting essential vitamin will in some way contribute to skin rejuvenation and protection.7

Nutrients we can get from walnuts

Walnuts contain just about every essential nutrient and vitamin needed to promote healthy living. The nutritional value of walnuts is still being unearthed. So far, walnuts have been discovered to contain vitamins ranging from vitamin A to lutein zeaxanthin, folate, and everything in between. 

The exact vitamins (and their quantities in 100g) contained in walnuts include but are not limited to:

  • Vitamin A- 1 μg
  • Beta-carotene- 12 μg 
  • Lutein zeaxanthin- 9 μg 
  • Vitamin A- 20 IU
  • Thiamine(B1)- 0.341 mg 
  • Riboavin(B2)- 0.15 mg 
  • Niacin(B3)- 1.125 mg 
  • Pantothenic acid(B5)- 0.570 mg 
  • Vitamin B6- 0.537 mg 
  • Folate(B9)- 98 μg 
  • Vitamin C- 1.3 mg 
  • Vitamin E- 0.7 mg 
  • Vitamin K- 2.7 μg 2

While walnut has an impressive vitamin collection, its true nutritional value does not end there. There are various essential metals and ions contained, not to mention dietary fiber, proteins and energy. 

Other nutritional constituents of walnuts and their quantities in every 100g include:

  • Energy 2,738kJ (654Kcal)
  • Carbohydrates 13.71
  • Starch 0.06
  • Sugars 2.61
  • Lactose 0
  • Dietary fiber 6.7
  • Total Fat 65.21
  • Saturated fat 6.126
  • Monounsaturated fat 8.933
  • Polyunsaturated fat 47.174
  • Protein 15.23

How to include walnuts in our diet

According to Havard Health Publishing.4, an ounce of walnuts daily significantly increases your chances of keeping heart conditions at bay. There are a number of ways to integrate walnuts into your diet and still enjoy them. 

They include:

  • Sprinkling them directly into your hot or cold cereals.
  • They are excellent additions to salads (especially vegetable salads)
  • You could use them as topping for baked treats such as muffins, pancakes, and even bread.
  • Walnuts are also tasty when used as a crust when serving proteins (either chicken or fish)

Some people still prefer just enjoying walnuts as they are. An easy way of doing this is soaking them in water through the night. Then take them out of their shells and bake or lightly stir-fry them in the morning. Allow to cool and enjoy. 

How much is enough?

While walnuts are great and have so many benefits, it is best not to get carried away while enjoying them. There is no hard and fast rule on the upper limit for the intake of walnuts. At least none that has been proven. However, an ounce (about a handful) should be enough for your dietary needs. 

As a result of its high fiber content, overindulgence could result in bloating, diarrhea, and even stomach pain. In some people, it could result in constipation, similar to most other nuts. According to Seyit and Turan.2 a handful of walnuts contain multiple times the nutritional value of other shelled nuts. 

Basically, more than a handful is simply an indulgence and more than 3 or 4 handfuls is becoming excessive. 

Summary

The health benefits of walnuts are quite diverse. They range from the development and protection of mental health. To the protection of the skin from ultraviolet light and its rejuvenation. Its part in the boosting of the immune system as a result of its antioxidizing characteristics is also vital. 

References

  1. RajaramS., PhD, Cofán M., DPharm, PhD, Sala-Vila A., DPharm, PhD, Haddad E., RD, DrPH, Serra-Mir M., RD, Bitok E., RD, DrPH, Roth I., RD, PhD, Freitas-Simoes T.M., RD, Amandeep Kaur, MPH, Valls-Pedret C., MSc, Doménech M., MD, PhD, Oda K., MPH, Dolores Corella, PhD, Sabaté J., MD, DrPH, Ros E., MD, PhD(2021). Effects of Walnuts Consumption for 2 Years on Lipoprotein Subclasses Among Healthy Elders. Circulation, 114(19) Pp. 1083-1084. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.121.054051
  2. Seyit M.Ş., Turan K. (2020) The Nutritional Value of Walnut. Journal of Hygienic Engineering and Design. 11(68). Online Source: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320445322_The_nutritional_value_of_walnut
  3. Abhi, C. and Ved, C. (2020) Beneficial Effects of Walnuts on Cognition and Brain Health. Nutrients, 12(2) pp. 550. Doi: 10.3390/nu12020550.
  4. Harvard Health Publishing (2021). Nutrition- Walnuts: A worthy addition to your daily diet? Online Source: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/walnuts-a-worthy-addition-to-your-daily-diet-202111172640 Accessed on March 23, 2023.
  5. Buscemi, S., Corleo, D., Di Pace, F., Petroni, M. L., Satriano, A., & Marchesini, G. (2018). The Effect of Lutein on Eye and Extra-Eye Health. Nutrients, 10(9), 1321. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10091321 
  6. Shields, H. J., Traa, A., & Van Raamsdonk, J. M. (2021). Beneficial and Detrimental Effects of Reactive Oxygen Species on Lifespan: A Comprehensive Review of Comparative and Experimental Studies. Frontiers in cell and developmental biology, 9, 628157. https://doi.org/10.3389/fcell.2021.628157
  7. Cleveland Clinic (2022). Skin Care & Beauty- Vitamin E for Skin: What Does It Do? Online Source: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/vitamin-e-for-skin-health/ Accessed on March 23, 2023.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Christian Nonso Mba

Bachelor's degree, Pharmacy, Igbinedion University, Okada

"I enjoy creative writing a lot. I have written books and articles on various platforms via numerous channels. I find articles medical and drug industry particularly interesting. But with my wealth of experience I can incorporate any desired “tone” into any topic when writing."

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