Two Hands full of healthy walnuts

The Health Benefits of Walnuts – A True "Super Food"

Published: September 2021

Walnuts, a food native to Persia, now produced widely in California, have been a staple of a healthy diet for thousands of years. Known to the Greeks as the "nut of Jupiter," they were considered a food fit for the gods—and rightfully so! Today, walnuts remain on every nutrition expert's running list of superfoods. They are high in unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, iron and B vitamins and have powerful antioxidant properties, making them beneficial to whole-body health.

Though walnuts have a wealth of benefits to support whole-body health, this nut stands out for its position as a brain health superstar, and as a cardiovascular health champion.

Are walnuts good for a brain boost?

Abstract image of healthy walnuts floating inside a head

The American diet tends to be low in omega-3, with up to two-thirds of Americans having omega-3 deficiencies. And since the brain contains and relies on these structural fats to support healthy brain and cognitive function, these fatty acids truly are essential. This is where walnuts come in. With a high omega-3 fatty acid content, walnuts are called brain food for a reason!

Walnuts also contain a wealth of healthy polyphenols, a plant-based compound, and are considered a staple of the Mediterranean diet, which is well known for its longevity benefits.

Want to try incorporating walnut's heart healthy benefits into your diet? Try our spinach, pomegranate and walnut salad recipe!

A recent study published in Journal of Lipids found that omega-3 fatty acids reduced hyperactivity in children. There have actually been hundreds of scientific studies signifying a variety of health concerns linked to omega-3 deficiencies!

The heart health benefits of walnuts

Walnuts that are good for your heart, split in half

Did you ever notice that when you cut open a walnut at a certain angle, you'll see a heart shape inside? Because of its omega-3 content, indeed, walnuts are a great way to benefit your heart health as well as your circulatory system. They are known for having a favorable impact on what's called vascular reactivity, which is the ability for blood vessels to respond to stimuli in a healthy way.

Walnuts also contain high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, also known as ALA, which is a major contributor to a healthy heart. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reviewed the heart health benefits of walnuts on 1059 participants who were monitored during control diets and diets that included walnuts. Results showed the walnut eating group to have a significantly greater decrease in total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), sometimes referred to as "bad" cholesterol.

What about other healthy nuts?

If you're not nuts about walnuts, you can still get many benefits from other nuts:

Almonds

Support heart health and healthy cholesterol levels.

Pecans

Support healthy blood pressure levels.

Hazelnuts

A good source of vitamin E, an essential vitamin for overall health.

Brazil Nuts

A good source of magnesium, which promotes heart and bone health, as well as mood support.

Pistachios

Promote heart and eye health with two antioxidants that aren't found in other nuts

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Two hands full of heart healty walnuts

With all the health benefits walnuts can offer, it's also important to remember that walnuts are very high in calories. And remember, a healthy diet is only one part of the equation. To avoid going "nuts" at snack time, measure out a tablespoon or two—or, mix them into a lower-calorie healthy food, like chopped fresh fruit or plain Greek yogurt. You can also sprinkle them in salads, over fresh fish, or at breakfast time, add a spoonful to your oatmeal.

References

By: Michael A. Smith, MD

Dr. Michael A. Smith received his medical doctorate from the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center, and he practiced Internal Medicine and Radiology in Dallas, Texas in the early 2000s. Dr. Smith is the author of The Supplement Pyramid: How to Build your Personalized Nutritional Regimen. He is also the host of Live FOREVERish, a podcast and Facebook Live show for Life Extension.