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.

Scattered walnuts on white background

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 chutneys and dips to walnut caramel tart.

Nutritional value of walnuts

A 30g serving (about 14 halves) contains approximately:

  • 185 kcal
  • 4.3g protein 
  • 1.9g fibre
  • 18.5g fat
  • 0.48mg copper
  • 1.02mg manganese
  • 8.85mcg molybdenum
  • 5.7mcg biotin
  • 0.2mg B6

Like all nuts, walnuts contain good fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), but they are also a valuable vegetarian source of the essential fatty acid omega-3. They also contain biotin, manganese, molybdenum, vitamin E and B6. 

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

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 the creation of neurons.  

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

Discover the 10 foods that can boost your brainpower.

2. Mood-boosting

Omega-3 fatty acids are important to 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

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 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 page was updated on 4 August 2020 by Tracey Raye.

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.

Comments, questions and tips

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Milena Cooke's picture
Milena Cooke
11th Mar, 2018
Walnuts need to be soaked and dried or toasted before eating. They contain enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid that stops iron absorption. I just got severe anemia as I didn't know all that. Walnuts are my absolutely favourite food, I eat 100 gram a day and won't stop.
edwardhoward
6th Nov, 2017
Eating walnuts regularly can protect your heart, help you lose weight, provide protection against cancer and diabetes, improve your brain, and enhance the quality of your sleep. Some more benefits listed here http://blog.netmeds.com/top-reason-to-eat-walnuts/
mabozaritchie
17th Dec, 2019
Got any gleenogs?
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