Are walnuts good for you?
Registered nutritionists Nicola Shubrook and Kerry Torrens explain the top 10 health benefits of walnuts, and share great ways to add these nuts 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. Plus, check out some of our delicious walnut recipes, from Bramley & walnut chutney to our walnut caramel tart.
What are the health benefits of walnuts?
- Health-protective properties
- Anti-inflammatory benefits
- Benefit the brain
- Potentially mood-boosting
- May benefit the heart
- Improve cholesterol levels
- May aid weight loss
- May support a healthy digestive system
- May support healthy ageing
- May boost male fertility
Nutritional value of walnuts
A 30g serving (about 14 halves) contains approximately:
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- 206 kcal / 851Kj
- 4.4g Protein
- 20.6g Fat
- 14.0g Poly-unsaturated fat
- 3.2 Mono-unsaturated fat
- 2.2 Saturated 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 10 main health benefits of walnuts?
1. Health-protective properties
2. They're anti-inflammatory
The most notable polyphenol is ellagic acid: its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties appear to play an important role in managing the initiation and progression of several diseases, including cancer, type II diabetes and heart disease.
3. Good for the brain
As well as their important phytochemicals, walnuts contain 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.
Vitamin E, folate and the protective phytochemical, ellagic acid, also contribute to the neuroprotective and memory enhancing properties of walnuts.
Discover the 10 foods that can boost your brainpower.
4. May boost mood
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.
5. They're 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.
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.
6. May help manage cholesterol
7. 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. This is because, although walnuts are calorie-dense, we aren't able to absorb all of the energy from them, making walnuts a great snack alternative for those looking to manage their weight.
Learn more about how to lose weight and keep it off.
8. May 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.
9. May support healthy ageing
An observational study of more than 50,000 older women over an 18-year period found those with the healthiest diet had a 13% lower risk of physical impairment. One of the foods with the strongest beneficial contribution was walnuts
10. May support male reproductive 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.
Should I add walnuts to my diet?
As long as you do not have an allergy to them, walnuts make an impressive contribution to the diet, with benefits to the heart, brain and reproductive system.
Spaghetti with spinach & walnut pesto
Kale & apple soup with walnuts
Malted walnut seed loaf
Red cabbage with Bramley apple & walnuts
Chicken, broccoli & beetroot salad with avocado pesto
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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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