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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.