Walnuts pack a nutritional punch

Image: Aaron Amat/ Bigstock.com

Walnuts pack a serious nutritional punch! They contain a wide range of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that provide us with many health benefits.

Recently our friends at Walnuts Australia dropped in some of their delicious walnuts for us to snack on. We enjoyed eating them and learning more about the health benefits, and the walnut industry in Australia—so much so, that we wanted to spread the word with you.

The nutritional qualities of walnuts

  • Walnuts are a rich source of anti-inflammatory fats. They’re 72% polyunsaturated fats with lesser amounts of monounsaturated fats and, like many nuts, they’re free of unhealthy fats such as trans fats and cholesterol.
  • Walnuts contain high amounts of omega 3 fats in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – about 1884mg per 30g handful in fact!
  • Walnuts are a plant protein and source of the amino acid arginine, which converts to nitric oxide in our body which helps keep blood vessels flexible and keeping blood pressure controlled.
  • Walnuts are high in potassium and low in sodium. That’s perfectly in line with a DASH diet (DASH: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) to help with managing blood pressure and heart health.
  • Walnuts are rich in antioxidants including ellagic acid, allagitannins and proanthcyanidins, providing anti-inflammatory effects.

The walnut’s seemingly endless health benefits

You may recognise walnuts as the “ones that look like little brains”. And, like our brain, walnuts effect many areas of our body’s health.

What can walnuts do?

  • Improve cholesterol—a recent meta-analysis of 13 studies found that a daily dose of 40-100g of walnuts can significantly lower total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
  • Reduces inflammation—research shows a diet enriched with walnuts raises antioxidant capacity and improves inflammatory markers with no adverse effects on weight or Body Mass Index.
  • Keeps blood vessels healthy—another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating 40-65g of walnuts per day as part of a low-fat plant-based diet improved endothelial function (i.e. helps relax the blood vessel walls) which means it helps reduce atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.
  • Assists in weight management—although high in fat, walnuts are a good source of protein and fibre which aid in appetite satisfaction and assist in weight control.
  • Encourages good brain function—while there’s nothing definitive in the research on brain function as yet, research suggests that walnuts may exert an anti-inflammatory effect on brain cells and their antioxidant content may assist with cognitive and motor function in ageing.

Tips on buying and storing

Look for crisp and meaty kernels with a light coloured skin. This ensures the walnuts are fresh. If buying in their shells, select clean nuts with shells that look free from cracks and holes.

Store your walnuts in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer to keep them fresher for longer. Walnuts can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 months and in the freezer for up to 6 months.

5 ways with walnuts

  1. Sprinkle over your breakfast cereal, muesli or porridge for an extra crunch!
  2. Replace pine nuts with walnuts in your favourite pesto recipe.
  3. Add chopped walnuts to homemade breads, cakes and muffins for added fibre and flavour.
  4. Sprinkle into salads for a different texture.
  5. Mix into yoghurt with berries and a drizzle of honey as an afternoon snack or healthy dessert.

 

Adapted, with permission, from Sue Radd’s Nutrition & Wellbeing Clinic e-newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Sue Radd is an Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian and one of Australia’s leading nutritionists and health communicators. Her most recent book Food as Medicine: Eating for Your Best Health received the Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best Health and Nutrition Book in the world for 2016.

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Category: Attitude, Physical Health

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