Top 5 health benefits of walnuts
Nutritional therapist, Nicola Shubrook, explains why walnuts are good for you. She discusses their key nutrients, impressive health benefits and suggests tasty ways to add them to your diet.
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What are walnuts?
Walnuts are a wrinkly, globe-like nut that is the fruit of the walnut tree. They grow in a hard shell that, when opened, reveals the walnut. This is then split in two, which is why you most commonly see them as flat segments. Walnuts are usually eaten raw or roasted.
Discover our full range of health benefit guides and find out more about the health benefits of nuts. Also check out some of our delicious walnut recipes, from Bramley and walnut chutney to our walnut caramel tart.
Nutritional value of walnuts
A 30g serving (about 14 halves) contains approximately:
- 206 kcal / 851Kj
- 4.4g Protein
- 20.6g Fat
- 14.0g Poly-unsaturated fat
- 1.4g Fibre
- 135mg Potassium
- 48mg Magnesium
- 28mg Calcium
- 114mg Phosphorus
- 20mcg Folate
Like all nuts, walnuts are rich in fat but these are largely in the form of polyunsaturated fats, as such they are a valuable vegetarian source of the essential fatty acid omega-3.
What are the 5 main health benefits of walnuts?
1. Good for the brain
Walnuts contain important phytochemicals, as well as high amounts of polyunsaturated fats that offer potential benefits for both brain health and function. Omega-3 fatty acids play a part by helping reduce oxidative stress in the brain but also by helping to improve brain signalling and neurogenesis, which is how new neurons are formed.
As well as high levels of beneficial fats, other important nutrients such as vitamin E, folate and the protective phytochemical, ellagic acid, are all found in walnuts, and contribute to its neuroprotective and memory enhancing properties.
Discover the 10 foods that can boost your brainpower.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for the development and function of the central nervous system. Promising research and clinical evidence indicate omega-3 fatty acids could well play a role in certain mood disorders.
Although, a study specifically evaluating the effect of walnuts reported mixed findings, the inclusion of walnuts in the diet of non-depressed, young healthy males did appear to improve mood.
3. Heart healthy
The Journal of Nutrition reports that consumption of walnuts may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and that walnut oil provides more favourable benefits to endothelial function, which is the lining of the inside of our blood and lymphatic vessels. There has also been research into whole walnuts, and how they can improve cholesterol levels and markers for inflammation, which is also connected to a reduced risk of heart disease.
A study by the British Journal of Nutrition found that those who consumed nuts more than four times a week reduced their risk of coronary heart disease by as much as 37 per cent.
Read more about what to eat for a healthy heart.
4. May support weight loss
There has been some evidence to demonstrate that consuming walnuts in the place of other foods does not cause weight gain, even though they are energy rich, offering a great snack alternative for those looking to manage their weight.
Learn more about how to lose weight and keep it off.
5. Support a healthy digestive system
A recent animal study has shown consuming walnuts can enrich the gut microbiota, the community of beneficial microbes which live in our intestines, and in particular increase strains of beneficial probiotic bacteria. This has been repeated in humans with reports of increases in beneficial strains and especially those which produce butyrate, a by-product which supports the health of the gut.
Discover more about how diet affects gut health.
Are walnuts safe for everyone?
People with an allergy to tree nuts should avoid walnuts. Allergy symptoms normally develop within minutes, and you should see your GP if you experience an adverse reaction. However, if this develops into a severe reaction, known as anaphylaxis, it is a medical emergency and immediate help should be sought.
Young children, some older people and those with a problem swallowing should avoid whole nuts due to the risk of choking.
Visit the NHS website to read more about allergies.
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This article was last reviewed on 25 July 2022 by Kerry Torrens.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
Kerry Torrens is a qualified nutritionist (MBANT) with a postgraduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the past 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
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