By now, many of us may have already heard that nuts are not the enemy. Not only are these crunchy snacks cheap, easy to store, and even easier to prepare, they’re also filled with heart-healthy fatty acids, dietary fiber, and other important nutrients.
Among the many kinds of nuts, the most popular seem to be almonds, hazelnuts, macadamias, and pecans. However, there’s one nut that deserves more attention: the walnut. Its nutrition profile is similar to other kinds of nuts — that is, it provides fiber, healthy fats, and various minerals and vitamins — but that is just the beginning. This humble nut has been the subject of intensive research due to its various health benefits, so much so that the annual Walnut Research Conference held in UC Davis is already in its 50th year!
So what makes the walnut truly special? Here are a few reasons.
Walnuts are Rich in Omega 3
Alpha-linolenic acid or ALA is the omega-3 fatty acid that comes from plants, and walnuts have the highest ALA content among all other kinds of nuts. They contain about 2.5 grams of ALA per 28 grams. Even among the various kinds of nut milk products, walnut milk has the highest amount of ALA per serving, with about 1400 mg per 240 ml glass. Studies have shown that ALA is helpful in reducing the risk for heart disease and improving overall cardiac and circulatory health.
ALA is an essential fat, meaning that your body can’t produce it; you have to get it from the food you eat. With just one serving of walnuts or one glass of walnut milk, you will already meet the recommended daily intake of ALA, which is about 1.6 grams for men and 1.1 grams for women.
Walnuts are Rich in Antioxidants
Apart from having the highest ALA content, walnuts also have the highest antioxidant content among all other kinds of common nuts. These antioxidants come in the form of melatonin and vitamin E, as well as various polyphenols or plant compounds which are particularly plentiful in the thin skin of walnuts.
Studies have shown that the the antioxidants in walnuts help prevent the oxidation of LDL or bad cholesterol. This action, in turn, prevents the buildup of LDL in the arteries which causes atherosclerosis.
Walnuts are Good for Your Stomach
Walnuts contain fiber, which is one of the most essential elements of a healthy gut. However, the more important property of walnuts in promoting a healthy digestive tract is its ability to nourish the good bacteria in your stomach. Researchers have found that those people who ate walnuts had more probiotic bacteria, including those that produce butyrate, a kind of fat that is essential in keeping the gut healthy.
When you have a healthy stomach, you are also healthier overall. Why? A healthy stomach has been linked to positive effects in the body, from a stronger immune system to better mood and memory. Health conditions like diabetes and obesity are also less likely to develop when you have a healthy gut.
Walnuts are Good for Your Brain
Is it just a coincidence that unshelled walnuts look like tiny brains, and that scientists are finding increasing evidence that walnuts are good for brain health? Various research have shown that the nutrient content of walnuts contributes in the prevention oxidative and inflammatory damage in brain and neural cells. Not only that, but there are also studies that link the consumption of walnuts to improved learning skills and memory, mental flexibility, and better overall brain function.
Research results are also encouraging in relation to walnuts’ ability to slow down the effects Alzheimer’s disease, although further tests are still needed to develop more solid conclusions.
Walnuts have certain drawbacks; there are no perfect foods after all. For example, walnuts are high in calories just like any other nut. However, this can easily be overcome by simply minding the portions you eat. And of course, those with tree nut allergies should avoid eating walnuts.
But other than these considerations, there really is no reason why you shouldn’t be eating walnuts or drinking walnut milk everyday. Try them and see how much your health will improve after just a few weeks!