Have you ever wondered why a walnut resembles the human brain? Ancient knowledge suggests this is more than mere coincidence. One of the biggest nutritional benefits of walnuts is support of the brain. No wonder walnuts are now scientifically corroborated to be real “brain food” and a leader among all nuts.
Walnuts are the round single-seeded fruits of Juglans genus tree. They are an excellent source of monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, protein and fibre. Moreover they have high concentrations of essential vitamins namely Vitamins include vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin E, vitamin K, and vitamin A. Also they are a rich source of various minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium. With all these high volume of healthy nutrients, walnuts offer numerous benefits to our overall health and protect us from a wide range of nutritional deficiencies and diseases including cancer.
Some of the best health benefits of eating walnut are listed below:
- Prevents cancer
Consuming walnuts can suppress the growth of cancer cells in human body. Phenolic compounds and antioxidants found in walnuts have the ability to control the growth of cancerous cells. So just a handful of walnuts a day can avert many forms of cancers such as prostate cancer, breast cancer, kidney cancer and colon cancer.
- Healthy heart
If combined with healthy lifestyle habits, walnuts can remarkably cut down the risk of many heart diseases and can offer multiple benefits to those who are already prone to them. Consuming walnuts increases the good cholesterol levels (HDL), reduces bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and maintains a healthy lipid supply in your body. These nuts are also loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, essential fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids, which not only prevent the formation of pathological blood clots but also keep a check on high blood pressure. The alpha-linoleic acid in walnuts reduces the risk of sudden death due to cardiac arrest. Moreover, the presence of I-arginine in walnuts makes them further beneficial for heart patients. Overall walnuts are one of the best foods for cardiovascular health.
- Weight Control
High on nutritional values walnuts can help you mange your weight in a healthier way. Just an ounce of walnuts can provide 18g fats, 4g carbohydrates and 190 calories. The combination of healthy fats, protein and fibre, makes you feel fuller for longer duration. Various minerals presents in walnuts like manganese, copper, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium help in improving the metabolism in the body. Additionally the presence of significant amounts of polyunsaturated fats in walnut aids insulin metabolism and reduces stored fat in the body.
- Recommended In Pregnancy
Walnuts are a rich source of Vitamin B-complex group, which are very beneficial for pregnant women and their foetus. They help expectant mothers in fighting with nausea and ensure proper brain development in babies. Eating walnuts before and during early pregnancy is recommended to women for their high folic acid content, which is the key factor in avoiding neural tube defects and reducing the risk of Down Syndrome in foetus.
- Male Fertility
Consumption of walnuts is a natural way of enhancing sperm quality in men. It is the only tree nut which contains polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in significant amount. These fatty acids are capable of repairing cell damage in sperms. Therefore, presence of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids along with Omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts results in improved sperm quality, including vitality, motility, and morphology.
- Better Digestion
Richness in fibre is what makes walnuts good for stomach. Unlike other common sources of proteins like dairy and meat products, walnut provides a good amount of fibre to the body which in turn ensures proper bowel movements and clean digestive tract.
- Fights Insomnia
Odd office hours, excessive work pressure and unhealthy lifestyle have made insomnia a widespread problem among the young and olds of today. Including some walnuts in your dinner is one of the easiest and simplest solutions for this big problem. With high amount of Melatonin, a hormone which is responsible for inducing sleep, walnuts can help you sleep quicker and better.
- For Brain Health
Walnuts are often consumed to support brain health. They have a significantly high concentration of DHA (a type of Omega-3 fatty acid), which is well known for maintaining brain health in newborns, improving cognitive performance in adults and preventing/improving age-related cognitive decline. The essential Fatty acids in walnuts work well as stress buster and mood enhancer. Walnuts can also give you more relaxed sleep by raising the melatonin levels. Further, they also ensure smooth functioning of nervous system and enhanced memory. Studies have proved that these nuts are good at reducing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Immunity Booster
Walnuts contain high amounts of antioxidants which strengthen our immune system and protect us against many diseases. They help in reducing the oxidative stress occurs due to ageing. Black walnuts offer effective cure against all kind of fungal infections. They also promote smooth bowel movements and thus keep digestive issues at bay. The combination of B-vitamins along with antioxidant vitamin-E put a tough fight against free radicals in the body.
- Controls diabetes
The useful dietary fat in walnuts improve metabolism in type 2 diabetes patients thereby significantly reducing fasting insulin levels. Walnuts contain high quantity of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats which people suffering from diabetes can take on a regular basis without any noteworthy weight gain. Research has proven that the intake of nuts is inversely proportional to the risk of developing type-II diabetes.
- Strong bones
Walnuts contain an essential fatty acid called alpha-linoleic acid that is associated with stronger and healthier bones. It encourages the optimal absorption and deposition in the body and minimises its excretion via urine. Also, intake of omega-3 fatty acids through walnuts reduces inflammation, thereby helping to keep bones stronger for longer periods. Walnuts are also rich in mineral like copper and manganese, which assist in maintaining high bone mineral density and thus help in reducing risk of osteoporosis and joint dysfunction.
- Anti Inflammatory Properties
Walnuts owe their anti-inflammatory properties to the polyphenolic compounds and phytochemical substances found in them. For these anti inflammatory properties walnuts are considered beneficial in the treatment of various inflammatory conditions like asthma, arthritis and eczema. Also walnut oil is commonly used as base oil in various massage therapies for the same reasons.
- Keeps You Beautiful
Walnuts are wonderful for skin, which makes them a primary ingredient in various cosmetic and skin care products. Rich in essential nutrients and antioxidants, they nourish your skin from within, promote the growth of healthier & radiant cells and give a healthy glow on your face. Regular application of walnut oil will reduce puffiness from tired eyes and lightens your dark circles as well.
- Healthy hair
The presence of walnuts in various hair care products speaks volume about their benefits for hair. Whether consumed as a nut or applied as oil, walnuts can work wonders for your hairs. Being a good source of potassium, omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids, walnuts strengthens the hair follicles. The moisturising properties of Walnut oil keeps your scalp healthy and free from dandruff. Further, it also improves the colour and texture of your hair. Also the husk of walnut acts as a natural colouring agent, which can accentuate the natural highlights of your hair. Using walnuts can lead you to healthier, stronger and shinier hairs.
Notwithstanding the long list of benefits, some restraints are recommended, too. Over consumption of this nutritional powerhouse can result in allergies and unforeseen health conditions including reactions, tightness in the throat/chest, hives, difficulty in breathing, rashes and damaged liver & kidneys. Black walnuts also contains phytates which obstruct the absorption of iron in the body. Hence their overdose may lead to iron deficiency in the body. It is better to avoid walnuts during cough and fever as they can dehydrate you from body fluid and interfere with fever medication. Further, due to high concentration of arginine, walnuts can trigger herpes recurrence, so those who struggle with this viral infection must also limit their walnut intake.
Whether you add walnuts to your favorite desserts or munch on them directly as a healthy snack, always consider less is more and relish their health and beauty benefits.
A full time work from home mother, she utilises her spare time to contribute insightful articles around day to day lifestyle challenges and their remedies, that all can relate to. Trust Aafiya to provide apt advice on diet mechanism, nutritional facts and common home remedies.
Away from writing, Aafiya is statistics post graduate, has worked earlier in the field of Research & Education and loves travelling.
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