The health benefits of walnuts

Are walnuts good for you? Rich in good fats, vitamins and minerals, discover the benefits of including these nuts as part of a balanced diet.

What are walnuts?

Walnuts are a wrinkly, globe-like nut that is the fruit of the walnut tree. They grow in a hard shell, which when opened reveals the walnut. This is then split in two and hence you will be familiar with seeing them as flat segments. Walnuts are usually eaten raw or roasted.

Nutritional value of walnuts

Like all nuts, walnuts contain good fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), but they are also a good source of the essential fatty acid omega-3. They also contain iron, selenium, calcium, zinc, vitamin E and some B vitamins.

Learn more about vitamins, minerals and different types of fat.

Are walnuts good for the brain?

Walnuts contain important phytochemicals as well as high amounts of polyunsaturated fats which do offer potential benefits for both brain health and brain function. Omega-3 plays a part by helping to reduce oxidative stress in the brain, but also by helping to improve brain signalling and neurogenesis, which is the creation of neurons.  

As well as the good fats, other important nutrients such as vitamin E, folate and ellagic acid all found in walnuts also contribute to neuroprotection and memory function.

Discover the 10 foods that can boost your brainpower.

Can walnuts boost mood?

Omega-3, found in walnuts, is important in the development and function of the central nervous system. There has been positive research and clinical evidence to indicate that omega-3 fatty acids could well play a role in certain mood disorders.

Hands holding shelled walnuts

Are walnuts good for heart health?

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%.

Read more about what to eat for a healthy heart.

Can walnuts help with 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.

Are walnuts good for the digestive system?

A recent animal study has shown that consuming walnuts can enrich the gut microbiome and increase particular good bacteria strains, which could offer benefits to humans with more research.

Discover more about how diet affects gut health.

Walnut recipes

Spaghetti with spinach & walnut pesto
Kale & apple soup with walnuts
Malted walnut seed loaf
Red cabbage with Bramley apple & walnuts
Quinoa tabbouleh
Chicken, broccoli & beetroot salad with avocado pesto
Waldorf slaw

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This article was published on 5th October 2017.

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.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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