With a kernel reminiscent of a brain, and a nutritional profile that makes it a valuable addition to any diet, the walnut is one of those snacks that no household should be without. And if you’ve ever wondered why they’re so expensive, it’s because they’re often hand shelled. Further to this, if you’ve ever cracked a walnut open yourself you’ll appreciate that it isn’t the easiest of tasks. Even with a decent nutcracker. Turkey is also one of the world’s major producers of walnuts.
Seven whole walnuts (28 grams or 1 ounce) can provide:
- 4.8 grams of protein
- 27% of your daily fat requirements but 86% of this fat is healthy fat, so good for you
- 7% of your daily fibre requirements
- 11% of your daily magnesium requirements
- 4% of your daily iron requirements
- 10% of your daily vitamin B6 requirements
- 2% of your daily calcium requirements
and 185 calories.
Those who know their nuts will tell you that walnuts can provide a range of health benefits. Here’s a few of them.
Walnuts Are High In Antioxidants
They contain ellagic acid. Ellagic acid is an antioxidant found in berry fruit like raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and cranberries. It’s also found in grapes, pomegranates, cherries, pecans, and green tea. And of course walnuts! Antioxidants are valuable for neutralising free radicals, which are atoms that have lost an electron from their outer shell and become unstable. As atoms don’t like being unstable they will try and steal a replacement electron from another atom, turning that atom into a free radical. And so the cascade continues and this is essentially what most cancers are. A bunch of free radicals pinching electrons from each other and causing all sorts of damage to cells and even DNA. Antioxidants can donate an electron to free radicals without becoming unstable themselves. Therefore most disorders and health issues (aging, cancers) caused by free radicals will benefit to a degree from a diet high in antioxidants.
Walnuts And Alpha Linoleic Acid (Plant-based Omega 3 Fatty Acids)
Walnuts are an excellent source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids ie alpha linoleic acids (ALAs), which help reduce arterial inflammation and the build up of plaque inside blood vessels. ALAs are also valuable for helping with inflammatory joint pain and stiffness that comes with arthritis. Studies show that people with arthritis have reduced markers (C-reactive protein) after eating walnuts and other nuts. The Arthritis Foundation recommends them for this reason.
Walnuts have been associated with low levels of depression in cultures that have diets high in omega 3’s.
Some omega 3’s appear to be able to boost the effects of anti-depressants, with implications for the treatment of disorders like bi-polar and ADHD.
The inflammation lowering effects of omega 3’s show promise for treating asthma.
There is also research suggesting that they could help with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Even if only half of these pan out with further research, that’s still plenty of reason to start incorporating walnuts into your daily diet. The American Heart Association in fact recommends including omega 3 rich foods like walnuts for better heart health. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian it goes without saying that walnuts should be very high on your list of ‘must eats’.
Walnuts And Diabetes
Have Type 2 diabetes? This study found that a group of overweight adults with type 2 diabetes reduced their fasting insulin levels after adding a quarter of a cup of walnuts to their diet for 3 months. Another study looked at the possibility that the anti-inflammatories in walnuts are able to provide some protection against insulin resistance and diabetes.
Walnuts And Melatonin
Melatonin is the sleep hormone. A study done on animals showed that walnut consumption raised their blood levels of this hormone. It’s known that eating foods high in melatonin just before bed improves sleep quality.
Walnuts And Sperm Quality
This study looked at the effects of omega 6 fatty acids and ALA’s in walnuts on sperm health, quality, vitality and motility. And found that the men eating walnuts showed improvement in all criteria compared to the control group who didn’t. It’s surmised that this improvement is due to the increase in levels of these nutrients, which are known to improve sperm health, after consuming the walnuts.
Walnuts And Your Hair
Walnuts contain omega-6 fatty acids and vitamin B7 (biotin). Both are known to help with follicle health with a subsequent follow on benefit in hair health. Topical application of walnut oil provides essential minerals (walnuts contain copper, zinc and iron) to hair follicles and the scalp, improving the health of both and promoting healthy hair growth. Diluted walnut oil has also been used, apparently successfully, to help with dandruff control and prevention.
Other Uses For Walnut Oil
In addition to topical scalp applications, the ALA’s in walnut oil make it a useful anti-aging and skin care product for hydrating and nourishing dry skin. Research shows it can also help protect skin from the damages of UV exposure, which contributes to the aging process.
Even Walnut Leaves Have Their Uses
The tannin in walnut leaves also has a few beneficial uses when used in tinctures. One of these uses is as a natural alternative to antiperspirants and deodorants. The leaves are boiled in water and the resulting liquid used as a spray to reduce perspiration. It works by shrinking sweat glands.
Walnut leaf washes can also help tighten those unsightly enlarged pores and improve the overall health of your skin. If you suffer from acne, this particular bit of research indicates that walnut leaves contain anti-inflammatory compounds that help fight Propionibacterium acnes, the bacteria that causes this affliction.
And finally, we all know the value of exfoliation! And that walnut production produces lots of shells. So what better way to use them than finely ground into an exfoliating paste. Exfoliation has numerous benefits for skin, notably that it removes dead and dying skin cells. Walnut meal, which is finely ground walnut, also makes an excellent facial scrub too.
So why not consider adding a handful of walnuts to your daily snack pack.