Walnuts are probably the most unique-looking nuts among others when split open, with their kernels resembling either a human brain or two bumpy wings of an abstract butterfly. They are usually roasted and used in salads, desserts, pasta, sauces, and other sweet or savory dishes due to their crunchy and nutty quality. However, health-conscious people don’t only focus on how the crunchy walnuts enhance the taste of a recipe, but also on how they significantly increase the nutritional value of the food. If you are thinking about what are the health benefits of walnuts, then read on to satisfy your curiosity and improve your overall wellness.
Superfood walnuts make a delicious and nourishing addition to your daily diet.
While walnuts are widely known as heart-beneficial food because of their rich omega-3 fatty acids that can maintain normal cholesterol levels, studies point out that they are also an excellent source of antioxidants, protein, fiber, minerals, vitamins, and several special nutrients, each of which plays a phenomenal role in improving many aspects of your well-being. This is why these wrinkly nuts, which most people enjoy as a snack, are tagged as a superfood, which you should be eating more often. Walnuts are also versatile and available all year round, so incorporating them into your daily meal plans should not hinder your way to a more robust mind and body against various diseases.
What are Walnuts?
Walnuts, specifically Persian or English walnuts, come from certain tree species of the genus Juglans, which is under the Juglandaceae family. This cultivar, scientific name Juglans regia, is one of the most grown types, along with Juglans nigra or Black walnut and Juglans cinerea or White walnut. The tall trees where these nuts came from have compound leaves and highly-valuable timber, which is primarily used for gunstocks and ornamental furniture like cabinets.
The rich history of walnuts dates back thousands of years ago. However, historians believed that different walnut types also originated from varying places. English or Persian walnuts are thought to come from India and the many regions circling the Caspian Sea, where they held a royalty status in the ancient Roman and Persian civilizations. Meanwhile, both white and black walnuts were first grown in North America, particularly in the Central Mississippi area, where they became a vital part of the lifestyles and diets of native American Indians, as well as early foreign settlers.
The wrinkly but tasty walnut kernels are rich in antioxidants that mop away disease-causing free radicals.
Mature walnuts are rounded and have a hard-shelled covering, which color ranges from bright beige to deep brown. When cracked open the shell, you will find a large, two-lobed, wrinkly, and off-white edible kernel or meat coated in a brown, slightly bitter, waxy paper-thin skin, whereas the nut itself tastes mild, a little tangy, and earthy. While the nuts are fundamentally utilized for culinary purposes, their oil extracts can also be used in the production of medicine and aromatherapy.
Compared to other tree nuts and legumes, walnuts have the highest level of antioxidant polyphenols that mop away dangerous free radicals in the body. Along with the mentioned nutrients above, they can also promote your good bacteria, which in return boosts the immune system, reduces inflammation, promotes brain function, and lowers the risk of chronic illnesses.
Nutritional Profile of Walnuts
What are the Health Benefits of Walnuts?
Phytochemistry research presents that walnuts are an exceptional source of antioxidant compounds that help protect the body from the injuries caused by unstable molecules called free radicals. The major phytochemicals that contribute to the nuts’ overall antioxidant properties include vitamin E, carotenoids, ellagic acid, melatonin, and a high level of polyphenolic compounds. With this, consuming 6-7 walnuts a day helps stave off various illness-inducing free radicals.
Walnuts also exhibit anti-inflammatory activities that greatly support the food’s radical-scavenging ability. The anti-inflammatory nutrients in these nuts include numerous phenolic acids, tellimagrandin and ellagitannins, flavonoids, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids. These substances maintain the correct balance of inflammation-regulating molecules, as well as the proper structure of your vital organs.
Cytotoxic is any substance that induces damage or death to cells, especially those that grow and multiply faster than normal like cancer cells. The antioxidants in walnuts, including quinone, tannin, and morin, are found to possess cytotoxic effects against certain forms of tumors in the body, inhibiting their growth and proliferation, as well as inflammation, while protecting other healthy cells.
Major Benefits of Walnuts
1. Walnuts have potent anti-cancer benefits
Given their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cytotoxic properties, walnuts have been well-recognized for hindering the initiation and development of cancer cells, particularly in the breast, prostate, and colon. Their omega 3-fatty acids, urolithins, and several polyphenols are the primary bioactive components that scavenge free radicals, kill tumors, and reduce excessive inflammation in cancer.
2. The nuts promote better brain functions
The mentioned antioxidants, most especially omega-3 fatty acids, are found to be beneficial for the brain and its functions. Walnut supplementation has been linked to a slower cognitive decline, decreased neurological diseases, and improved concentration and memory recall among older individuals.
3. Walnut supplementation prevents diabetes
Walnut nutrients are shown to promote good blood fat content, with lesser bad cholesterol and lesser total amounts of cholesterol in individuals with type-2 diabetes. The nuts also help in controlling blood sugar levels, increasing insulin sensitivity, and lowering your risk of developing type-2 diabetes.
4. Walnuts strengthen bone structures
Another essential fatty acid in walnuts called alpha-linolenic acid works together with omega-3 fats and other anti-inflammatory substances to provide you more robust bones, as these nutrients are found to stabilize bone structures and lessen bone mineral loss.
5. Fiber-rich nuts aid in proper digestion
The fiber-rich walnuts can keep your digestive system function properly, easing indigestion and bowel problems. Aside from bulking up your stools for smoother transportation throughout the gastrointestinal tract, fiber also enhances the presence of good bacteria in your gut that protect the colon from illnesses.
6. Walnuts promote healthier heart
A meta-analysis study concludes that a walnut-enriched diet significantly reduced both bad and total cholesterol in the body, supporting the proper functioning of the cardiovascular and circulatory system. The ample amounts of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts encourage the better composition of the blood and blood vessel membranes, production of good cholesterol, and balance of pro-inflammatory enzymes.
7. Walnut oil cures fungal infections
Walnut oil has been employed to cure fungal infections that cause candida in the gut or skin, athlete’s foot, and jock itch since traditional times. Although not extensively studied, the nutrients in walnuts are said to ease uncomfortable fungal symptoms like itching, rashes, and soreness similar to that of allergies.
8. It induces a more relaxed sleep
Apart from the omega-3 fatty acids that decrease blood pressure and relieve stress, walnuts have impressive levels of melatonin that act as active messaging and hormone-like regulating agents in the nervous system. These melatonin compounds are crucial for better dark adaptation, daily circadian rhythms, sleep regulation, and other vital biological processes.
9. Walnuts encourage detoxification
The abundant fiber, minerals, and vitamins in walnuts greatly support other phytonutrients in detoxifying the body, strengthening the immune system, and preventing the onset of numerous diseases. The important vitamins in walnuts that promote immunity include B-complex vitamins like folates, riboflavin, and vitamin B-6 and minerals like calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
10. Walnut consumption offers skin benefits
Eating walnuts, which have high quantities of antioxidant vitamin E and B-vitamins, not only alleviates stress and bad mood but also promotes skin health, preventing the early onset of aging like wrinkles and fine lines. With the nuts’ power to help moisturize dry skin, lessen dark circles, ease puffiness, and make skin glow, walnut oil is now popularly added into aromatherapy oil, pharmaceutical drugs, and cosmetic staples.
How to Prepare
In whatever recipe you want to include walnut kernels, it is best if you include their slightly bitter coating, as it is concentrated with phenolic acids, flavonoids, and tannins, and flavonoids. Just chop and incorporate walnuts into your vegetable or fruit salads, desserts, and cooked dishes.
Here are some few quick and simple serving ideas you can follow:
- Relish walnut kernels as they are, free from any seasonings or additives. Utilize a nutcracker or sheller machine to open their hard shell. However, the nuts can also be roasted, sweetened, or salted to enjoy variation.
- Crush your walnuts and sprinkle them over fresh salads, sautéed vegetables, sundaes, and other cream-based desserts. Or use them as topping for your plain yogurt, pies, and pizzas.
- Make a delectable walnut butter to substitute your peanut butter, especially if you have an allergy to the latter.
How to Select and Store
Selection: Walnuts can be bought unshelled or shelled and come in varying sizes. When getting whole, unshelled walnuts, make sure their outer covering isn’t cracked, have holes, or stained to ensure the absence of microbial contamination. Meanwhile, you can buy shelled walnuts in prepackaged bins or containers, and to guarantee maximum freshness, avoid those that have signs of moisture and foul smell.
Storage: Walnuts are highly perishable due to their rich polyunsaturated fats. Store unshelled walnuts in a dry, cool, and dark place to keep fresh for three to six months. But shelled nuts should be placed in airtight containers and put inside the refrigerator.
Possible Risks and Complications
Tree nuts, including walnuts, are included in the list of food types that are deemed to induce allergy in the United States. Walnut allergy is described as a hypersensitivity reaction if ingested a kernel or walnut-based products, in which symptoms involve lip and throat swelling, abdominal pain, chest congestion, breathing difficulty, and vomiting. So if you have any single doubt, don’t hesitate to read the label and ask your physician before consuming walnuts or their products.
Walnuts have numerous health benefits that are both traditionally and scientifically-proven. Their extremely rich antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents, cytotoxic properties, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and vital phytonutrients contribute to the prevention of different metabolic conditions and infections like cancer, diabetes, heart issues, and neural disorders while improving your immunity, bones, digestion, skin, and sleep patterns. Just always put in mind that moderation is the key, as excessive consumption of walnuts may cause some adverse effects rather than gains.
How do you savor your nutty and delicious walnuts? Share your healthy recipe with us in the comment box below!