Health Benefits of Walnuts – The Brain Superfood
Often times, the simplest foods are best for your health, and this is certainly the case for nuts. Mother Nature has crafted a nearly perfect package of essential macro and micronutrients for the human body in walnuts. Walnuts are a rich source of healthy fats and antioxidants. It is known as “brain food” due to its beneficial effects on our brain. Read on to know about the several health benefits of walnuts!
Walnuts commonly referred to as ‘Akhrot’ in Hindi are round, single-seeded edible seeds which have a crinkly appearance. Walnuts are an important ingredient of many make-up and skin care products due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
China is the largest producer and consumer of walnuts; it accounts for nearly 50% of the world production. US is the second largest producer, with California accounting for around 99% of the production in the states. California accounts for three-quarters of the world walnut trade.
Walnut is not a true botanical nut, but the edible seed of a stone fruit. Walnut varieties are of three types – English (or Persian), Black and White (or Butternut). All these varieties are rich in Omega 3 fats and antioxidants, but English Walnuts are the most popular because of thinner shell and mild flavour.
Did You Know?
– Walnuts are the oldest tree food known to mankind, dating back to 7,000 BC
– Ancient Greeks and Romans wrote extensively about the special health benefits and medicinal uses of walnuts
– Walnuts originated in Central Asia and were brought to California in 1700’s
– Walnut trees can live up to 250 years
– If you want to preserve the taste of a walnut, do not shell it
Most of health benefits of walnuts are due to its high omega-3 fatty acid content (ALA – the plant form of omega 3), than any other nut. Walnuts provide 2.5 g of Omega 3 in 1-ounce (28 g) serving. According to the US Institute of Medicine, the adequate intake of ALA is 1.6 g and 1.1. g per day for men and women respectively. Along with this, they are a rich source of vitamins like vitamin A , vitamin C , vitamin K and other B vitamins. They have minerals like calcium , magnesium , potassium , selenium and phosphorous . Walnuts are also rich in carotenoids, phytosterols and dietary fibers .
Health Benefits of Walnuts
Let’s explore some of the health benefits of walnuts in detail.
Good for Heart
Due to the high content of omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts are extremely beneficial for heart, especially in cases of cardiovascular diseases. They have an ample supply of mono-unsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid and essential fatty acids like linoleic acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and arachidonic acids which help prevent coronary heart diseases by favouring a healthy lipid profile. Consumption of walnuts also helps in the production of HDL or “good” cholesterol and lowering the LDL or “bad” cholesterol. Know about functional foods for heart health here!
Good for Brain
The omega-3 fatty acid content of walnuts helps maintain proper functioning of the brain and nervous system and also aid in improving memory function. Scientific studies prove that a lack of omega-3 fatty acids causes hyperactivity and irritability. Walnuts compensate for the deficient essential fatty acids (EFAs) and uplift the mood; hence they help in battling depression and stress in adults.
Good for Immune System
Walnuts have a high number of antioxidants that help keep the body healthy and prevent the onset of many diseases. They contain an essential fatty acid named ALA which leads to stronger and healthier bones. Omega-3 fatty acid also reduces inflammation and help prevent inflammatory diseases like asthma, arthritis and eczema. Black walnuts are excellent for cleansing the system from fungal infections like candida and various other fungal species.
Good for Digestive System
Walnuts are a great way of maintaining a proper digestive system as they are rich in dietary fibers. The dietary fibers help maintain proper bowel movement and keep digestive problems away.
In addition, they are also great for improving the overall metabolism of the body. This is because walnuts provide minerals like manganese, copper, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium to the body along with EFAs which help contribute to metabolic activities like growth and development, sperm generation, digestion, and nucleic acid synthesis.
Good for Pregnancy and Better Sleep
Walnuts contain healthy B vitamins like folates, riboflavin and thiamin which are immensely beneficial for pregnant women and the foetus. They also have a considerable amount of melatonin which is responsible for inducing and maintaining healthy sleep patterns. The omega-3 fatty acid content of walnuts is also responsible for maintaining normal blood pressure and relieving stress.
How do I include walnuts in my diet?
For integrating walnuts in your daily diet, you can add shredded walnuts to chicken and fish right before cooking them or you can simply grind some walnuts and add them on your sandwiches, salads or any other dish, for that matter. Walnuts can also be eaten on their own, raw, roasted or in soaked form.
Walnut adds a rich nutty taste to the foods and helps bring aroma and flavour along with the health benefits it provides for the body.
Personal care uses
Applying walnut oil to hair can help keep the hair strong, thick and dandruff free. Walnut oil massaged on the skin can make it healthier, vibrant and supple. One can also apply walnut shell powder externally for skin issues such as acne, eczema, blisters, ringworm and even over fungal infections.
If you are already a walnut consumer on a daily basis then feel free to share your experiences with us in the comments section below and help us know more about its amazing benefits!
Disclaimer: People allergic to walnuts should strictly avoid it, especially black walnuts as they may induce allergic reactions in the body. Walnuts also contain a compound called phytates which can absorb about 50% to 60% of the body’s iron content which can cause iron deficiency. Hence, one needs to avoid an excess consumption of walnuts. If you are on prescription medication, consult your doctor before consuming walnuts.
100 grams of English Walnuts provides 654 calories, Carbs – 13.7 g (Dietary fiber – 6.7 g), Fat – 65.2 g (Sat Fat – 6.1 g, MUFA – 8.9 g, PUFA – 47.2 g, of which Omega 3 – 9.1 g), Protein – 15.2 g, Sodium – 2 mg
And a percentage daily value of Vitamin B6 – 27%, Folate – 25%, Thiamin – 23%, Manganese -171% , Copper – 79%, Phosphorus -35%, Zinc – 21%, Magnesium – 40%, Iron- 16%, Potassium – 13% and Calcium – 10% (based on a 2,000 Calorie diet).