Going Nuts Over Walnuts!

To say that walnuts are a nutritious food is a bit of an understatement. They provide healthy fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals — and that’s just the beginning of how they support health.

In fact, there’s so much interest in this one nut that for the past 50 years, scientists and industry experts have gathered annually at the University of California, Davis, for a walnut conference discussing the latest walnut health research. (Their focus is typically on the English walnut, the most common variety.)

Here are several science-based health benefits of walnuts—solid reasons to go nuts over walnuts!

ANTIOXIDANT RICH. Walnuts have higher antioxidant activity than any other common nut. This activity comes from vitamin E, melatonin and plant compounds called polyphenols, which are particularly high in the papery skin of walnuts. Their high antioxidant content helps prevent oxidative damage that results from “bad” LDL cholesterol (which causes atherosclerosis).

A SUPER SOURCE OF OMEGA-3 FATS. Better than any other nut, actually. Also known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), omega-3 is an essential fat, meaning you can only get it from diet. Research shows that each gram of ALA you eat per day lowers your risk of dying from heart disease by 10%.

HELP DECREASE INTERNAL INFLAMMATION. Inflammation is at the root of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. It’s the walnut’s polyphenols, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and the amino acid arginine that works the magic.

PROMOTE A HEALTHY GUT. If your gut is rich in health-promoting bacteria and other microbes (your gut microbiota), you’re more likely to have a healthy gut and good overall health. Eating walnuts is an effective way to support the health of your microbiota and your gut.

HELP FIGHT CANCER. Breast, prostate and colorectal cancers specifically. It’s all due to their high content of the polyphenol ellagitannins.

HELP WITH WEIGHT CONTROL. Being calorie dense, they help control appetite. For instance, well-controlled studies showed that drinking a smoothie made with about 1.75 ounces of walnuts once a day for five days decreased appetite and hunger. Additionally, researchers found that after five days of consuming these smoothies, participants’ brain scans showed an increased activation in a region of the brain that helps resist highly tempting foods (things like cake and French fries!).

SUPPORTS GOOD BRAIN FUNCTION. It may be just a coincidence that the shell of a walnut looks like a tiny brain, but research suggests that this nut is indeed good for your mind. This better brain function includes faster processing speed, more mental flexibility and better memory.

THEY HELP MANAGE AND LOWER RISK OF TYPE 2 DIABETES. This is due to their ability to help with weight control and their ability to help control blood sugar.

THEY CAN HELP LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE. This is important, as small differences in blood pressure are thought to have a big impact on your risk of heart disease and stroke.

THEY CAN EVEN HELP WITH AGING. Science has proven healthy eating habits, such as eating walnuts every day, helps maintain physical agility and ability.

SUPPORTS MALE REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH. Research shows typical Western diets (high in processed foods, sugar and refined grains) are linked to reduced sperm function, and that eating walnuts rather than all the junk undoes the damage and boosts male fertility.

In addition to the above advantages, you have to appreciate how widely available walnuts are, and how easy it is to add them into your diet. However, you do want to be careful with portion sizes. 1ounce shelled walnuts = 28 grams = 1/4 cup = 12–14 halves = 1 small handful (6) = about 190 calories.

All these benefits aside, there is one hold-up to eating them that some folks have. These people will say, “I can’t eat walnuts. They give me canker sores.” I used to have this same problem. There’s an easy fix for this, however: soak your nuts overnight in salted water. Next morning drain and rinse them well. Then either place them in the fridge or freezer. If you choose to refrigerate them, they’ll keep for at least 2 weeks, but they’ll be on the soft side.

But my preferred post-soaking approach is to dehydrate them on LOW (about 115 degrees to protect their enzymes) for five or six hours to re-crisp them. I’ve been treating walnuts this way for years and I promise, there hasn’t been a canker sore issue since.

Lastly, to add further encouragement to eating more walnuts, I’ll close with one of the best sweet potato dishes I’ve ever had—all thanks to the addition of walnuts and blueberries. We went nuts over this! (Thank you www.walnuts.org!)

Walnut and Blueberry Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Serving size: 4
Calories per serving: 361


4 large sweet potatoes
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries divided
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup raw honey optional

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Wash sweet potatoes thoroughly. Pierce holes in the all over with a fork and wrap each one with foil. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 40-45 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are soft and tender.
3. Remove potatoes from oven, open foil and slit tops; with a fork, mix ¼ cup blueberries into flesh of each potato. Reclose potatoes and foil. Return potatoes to oven and continue baking for about 5 or 10 minutes (time depends on whether blueberries are fresh or frozen)
4. Once the sweet potatoes are done, let them set for about 10 minutes to cool.
5. Slightly spread cooked potatoes and with a fork fluff them up.
6. Top each sweet potato with remaining 2 cups blueberries, walnuts, and cinnamon. Drizzle with honey, if desired, and enjoy!

Recipe formatted with the Cook'n Recipe Software from DVO Enterprises.

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  •   www.healthline.com
  •   www.coachmag.co.uk
  •   www.bluezones.com
  •   www.scitechdaily.com
  •   www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com
  •   www.health.clevelandclinic.org
  •   www.walnuts.org

    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
    Email the author! alice@dvo.com

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