Walnut Benefits for Heart Health, Brain Health, and More

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At first glance, walnuts may seem very strange. They are wrinkled, oddly shaped, and look like tiny brains. (You’d never ignore it!) But if you can get past their exotic looks, the walnut is worth a try. Very nutritious, crunchy because it is very nutritious. It’s rich in beneficial fats and antioxidants, plus vitamins and minerals to boot. Before that, learn about the health benefits of walnuts, as well as ways to enjoy walnuts at home.

Walnuts are the seeds of the nut tree, according to a scientific review in International Journal of Molecular Sciences (IJMS). The tree bears fleshy fruits with a green, leathery outer layer known as the rind. When the fruit ripens, the hull opens to reveal a hard brown peel that contains the kernel (also known as the seed) – this is the part you eat. Other parts are usually disposed of or used for industrial purposes, such as power production, according to the above review. While there are many types of walnuts, the most common in the United States is the English walnut (also known as the common walnut or Persian nut). And get this: Botanically speaking, a nut is not actually a nut, but a drupe seed, a type of fruit that contains a seed. The more you know!

If walnuts are going to win the formula preference, it’s likely due to their high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), which are often referred to as “good” fats. In fact, it’s one of the top plant sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of PUFA that is an anti-inflammatory superstar, according to a 2019 study. Nuts also offer fiber, folate, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants, such as polyphenols. , according to a review in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (Related: Simple Ways To Use Walnuts In Healthy Cooking)

FYI, roasted nuts or other processed forms of nuts (such as nut milk or flour) may have different nutritional properties. For example, in general, raw, dry roasted, or unsalted nuts contain less added fat and sodium than salt or roasted oil, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Research has linked free radicals to a myriad of chronic diseases, but the antioxidants in walnuts can keep them in check. This includes compounds like polyphenols, vitamin E, and catechins (also found in green tea), according to Tracy Frimpong, RD, registered dietitian and founder of That Black RD. See, free radicals are unstable molecules that, in excess, can lead to cell damage or oxidative stress, which can, over time, turn into chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. Enter: antioxidants, like those found in walnuts. These powerful disease fighters help reduce and remove free radicals by altering their molecular structure, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. This protects cells from damage, and ultimately prevents chronic diseases. (Related: Why You Need More Polyphenols in Your Diet)

Walnuts contain soluble fiber, which is one of the best nutrients for controlling blood sugar, according to a review in Annals of Medicine. Soluble fiber, as its name suggests, is soluble; It dissolves in water in the gut, forming a gel-like substance that slows the body’s absorption of glucose, causing a steady rise in blood sugar, explains Jonathan Portell, a registered dietitian at Lenox Hill Hospital. This helps control blood sugar, thus preventing high blood sugar, which, if repeated, can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

But soluble fiber is not the only nutrient responsible for these health benefits of walnuts. Magnesium and ALA—both of which, ICYMI above, is found in walnuts—help boost insulin sensitivity, adds Purtell. Insulin sensitivity indicates how well your body responds to insulin (the hormone that transports glucose into cells), which controls blood sugar and prevents type 2 diabetes, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

With their impressive ALA content, walnuts are your heart’s best friend. ALA (which, as a reminder, is a beneficial fatty acid) can lower bad (LDL) cholesterol, according to a study in Journal of the American Heart Association. Research also suggests that ALA has antioxidant effects that may protect against LDL oxidation — a process that is thought to occur when LDL cholesterol interacts with free radicals in the body. Low-density lipoprotein oxidation appears to play a role in plaque formation, which may contribute to heart disease. Moreover, according to Purtell, ALA can also promote the formation of compounds that cause vasodilatation or widening of blood vessels, thereby reducing high blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. Likewise, potassium adds to the health value of walnuts by relaxing blood vessels, controlling high blood pressure and preventing heart problems, he explains.

In addition to the similarity of small brains, walnuts can actually benefit the brain. This is partly due to its wonderful benefits for the heart; Brain health, after all, depends on healthy blood flow, which is controlled by the heart. Specifically, factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol can block blood flow to the brain, leading to cognitive impairment, according to a journal article. brain attack. But since the heart-friendly nutrients in walnuts (eg: ALA and potassium) target these factors, they can also protect the bottom. ALA also helps the body produce anti-inflammatory molecules that prevent inflammation and damage to blood vessels — both of which can increase the risk of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Frimpong says.

The antioxidant properties of walnuts also help. Essentially, “When the brain is under oxidative stress, this can lead to cognitive decline,” Frimpong explains. That’s because, over time, oxidative stress destroys brain cells. But the antioxidants in walnuts can reduce this oxidative damage, ultimately delaying or slowing the progression of cognitive decline, according to a scientific review published in the journal. Nutrients. (Related: Simple Strategies to Improve Brain Health)

You might be surprised to learn that walnuts contain melatonin, which can help you catch some cicadas. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the body’s circadian rhythm, or internal body clock, according to an article published in the journal. cells. Your melatonin levels naturally drop in the morning, which makes you wake up. Come evening, your melatonin levels increase, making you sleepy and tired. The pineal gland (a gland located in the brain) can make melatonin on its own, Purtell says, but you can also get it from foods that contain melatonin like walnuts. Simply put, eating walnuts may help increase your melatonin levels, thus helping you sleep.

Walnuts are tree nuts, which are one of the most common food allergens, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI). Possible symptoms of a food allergy include hives, coughing, stomach cramps, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the tongue or mouth. In severe cases, Frimpong adds, a food allergy can cause a life-threatening reaction that blocks breathing called anaphylactic shock. However, if you have a “history of allergy to other tree nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, and cashews, be careful when eating them.” [walnuts]If so, says Frimpong—if that’s the case, it’s definitely possible that you’re allergic to some nuts and not others, according to the ACAAI. But if you’re new to walnuts and have a history of food allergies, be sure to visit the allergen before chomping, Frimpong suggests.

In your supermarket, you may find loose nuts in the loose section or in pre-divided packages. They also differ in preparation (raw/dry roasted/oil roasted), seasoning (unsalted/salted/spiced), and shape (whole/half/sliced).

Whole walnuts are available with or without the shell. As you can probably imagine, the walnut shell sans shell is very convenient. Without the said shell protection, Frimpong says, it can spoil very quickly. This is because nuts are high in unsaturated fats, which are brittle and can be easily affected by heat, according to the Academy of Dietetics. So, if you want to keep walnuts fresh year-round, your best bet is to purchase shelled walnuts and open them just before eating, as the California Walnut Board recommends. In this case, you’ll need a nutcracker, like the Anwenk Nutcracker (buy it, $17, amazon.com).

If removing the shell seems like a lot of work, opt for shelled walnuts instead – just remember to store them properly to avoid premature spoilage. For starters, you’ll want to keep them cold (eg: in the fridge or freezer) because the nuts deteriorate when exposed to heat. However, prepackaged nuts can be kept at room temperature to the “best by” date as long as the container is kept closed. Once opened, store in a closed container (eg, an airtight glass container) in the refrigerator. In general, peeled walnuts It will last three to six months at room temperature (again, in a cool, dry place) or one year in the refrigerator, since the temperature stays below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Utah State University. If you prefer to keep it in the freezer, know that it should last at least two years. (Related: The 10 Healthiest Nuts and Seeds)

And how do you know if your walnuts are fresh or spoiled? Fresh ones should have a mild, nutty, and somewhat earthy aroma while a spoiled one has a “bad” flavor or sour smell, like paint thinner (yuck!), according to the California Walnut Board. Another telltale sign, Frimpong adds, is visible mold.

Less commonly, walnuts are available in other forms, including nut oil, milk, or flour. Also known as nutmeg or nut powder, like Erbology’s Organic Nut Flour (Buy, $18, amazon.com)—it can be used to make gluten-free baked goods. However, as a study in International Journal of Food Sciences Note that nut flours are high in moisture and fat, so you may need to adjust the other ingredients in the recipe. For best results, consider following a recipe designed specifically for nut flours, such as No-Bake Nut Cakes from the food blog. Paleo fry. Finally, walnuts are also available as an ingredient in packaged foods, including nut mixes, granola bars, and desserts, such as Maxine Heavenly Walnut Banana Bread Cookies (Buy It, $10, amazon.com). Some prepared foods may be loaded with added sugar and salt, so if you’re watching your intake of any of the ingredients, be sure to check the product label first.

Walnuts are delicious in both sweet and savory recipes, including side dishes, appetizers, and desserts. Just like any other kind of nuts or seeds,

And like many other nuts or seeds, it’s also great to eat by the handful. In the end, you can use walnuts as you would any other type of nuts or seeds, or simply eat them with a fist. Still not sure how to enjoy this nutritious nut? Use these ideas to enjoy the abundant health benefits of walnuts:

In pesto sauce. No pine? Not a problem. Use walnuts instead for a unique taste of pesto and enjoy crunchy bread.

as a substitute for meat. With their chewy and somewhat meaty texture, chopped walnuts work surprisingly well as a meat substitute. Unconvinced? Check out this recipe for Pecan Bolognese.

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