Nutrition – Walnuts

Walnuts and indeed most nuts in their raw, natural state have a wealth of health benefits that can be enjoyed by all ages. They are proven to have many properties that actively boost health and reduce the risks of developing some illnesses and diseases. And walnuts have been shown to be particularly beneficial.  In fact, just 60 grams of walnuts a day (that’s around 6-8) provide more than 100% of the daily recommended daily intake of plant based omega-3 fats.

Studies have also shown that walnuts can help reduce the risk of prostate and breast cancer. They contain the amino acid l-arginine which has benefits for those with heart disease and those at risk of heart disease. This is because in the body, the amino acid arginine changes into nitric oxide which is a powerful neurotransmitter that helps blood vessels relax and improves circulation, this also reduces the chances of developing blood clots. In fact, eating just four walnuts a day has been shown to support healthy cholesterol levels.

The anti-oxidants found in walnuts can help even out the aging process by combating free radicals. Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms which are unstable and highly reactive. Our modern lifestyles of unhealthy diets, lack of exercise, smoking and stress are said to be the major cause of age-related deterioration. Nuts, especially walnuts are a perfect age fighting food as they are full of omega-3 essential fatty-acids as well as B vitamins which are excellent for the complexion – promoting smooth, supple and younger looking skin.

Including nuts in our diets can also have a positive impact on our weight. They can improve digestive functioning, and strengthen immunity due to their rich mineral content. Although nuts are a high-calorie, high-fat food, they do not encourage weight-gain. This is because nuts are filling, and after consumption, people eat less afterwards. In fact, the body does not absorb up to 20% of nuts. Trials have shown that people whose diets included extra nuts lost weight.  A September 2008 review in “The Journal of Nutrition” reported that eating nuts regularly was associated with little or no weight gain and a lower body-mass index. (This excluded peanuts, however. Peanuts are in fact legumes, like beans or peas (edible seeds that grow inside pods), and grow underground.)

Ever noticed how walnuts look a lot like miniature brains? They are an excellent brain food! They contain high levels of vitamin E folate and melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that anticipates the daily onset of darkness, essential for getting a good night’s sleep. Vitamin E is often overlooked in how it benefits the brain but it in fact plays a key role in protecting membranes for oxidation (the gain of oxygen by a substance). And it is well known how valuable omega-3 is to brain function. Often we are encouraged to eat more fish for this very benefit but it can be sourced just as easily from the humble walnut.

As well as all of the benefits I have already mentioned, walnuts have been linked to improving metabolic parameters in those suffering from type-2 diabetes. Within three months of a study, participants had significant reductions in fasting insulin levels compared to those who did not include walnuts in their diet. [2]

We are all aware that a plant-based diet has numerous health benefits. But overhauling our diets can feel daunting and overwhelming. They great thing about nuts is that they are a powerful combination of fruits and seeds, combined into an easy to eat, delicious and easy to access food stuff. If you’re looking to improve your diet, eating more nuts is a perfect way to start once you realise the phenomenal amount of benefit it could have on your life. And smoother skin? I’m eating them for that reason alone.