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Are Walnuts Healthy? Nutrition Facts and 10 Health Benefits
Nutrition

Are Walnuts Healthy? Nutrition Facts and 10 Health Benefits

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on November 24, 2022
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10 min

Today’s discussion centers on the health benefits of walnuts. How can you create a healthy diet with these nuts? Let us find out!

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For the most part, many people consider walnuts as the perfect addition to treats, such as cookies, muffins, brownies, and baklava. However, eating raw walnuts is just as tasty. They are also a great topping for salads, hummus, and even cooked vegetables.

Besides the taste, walnuts are a nutrient powerhouse. They have been linked to many health benefits, including cancer and heart disease risk. The benefits even span across improving male fertility and brain function. 

Overall, this article examines all the reasons you should eat walnuts – from the benefits to the side effects. We also look into a simple walnut recipe. Stay tuned!

Are Walnuts Healthy?

The simple answer is yes. You should eat walnuts because they are healthy. They contain a boatload of healthy fats, protein, and fiber, which cater to healthy living.

What’s more, you can easily incorporate them into a wide array of snacks and desserts, and they are a perfect fit for those bound to the ketogenic diet.

10 Health Benefits of Walnuts 

Walnuts are a delicious, versatile addition to many recipes and a host of health benefits. In line with that, we will go over 10 benefits of eating walnuts.

#1 High in antioxidants

Walnuts stand as one of the richest dietary sources of antioxidants amongst plant life. As a matter of fact, walnuts, alongside pecans and chestnuts, contain the highest antioxidant content, containing more than 20mmol antioxidants per 100g serving.

The walnut’s antioxidant activity stems from a combination of vitamin E and polyphenols, which are present in its pellicle.

According to research, the antioxidants in walnuts help prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. 

#2 Rich omega-3 source

Walnuts are one of the best sources of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, accounting for 2.5 grams per ounce of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), more per 100g than any other nut except for cashews

ALA is the most common type of omega-3 fatty acid, and it offers a host of health benefits, including reducing inflammation, lowering cholesterol levels, and reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The health benefits also span across body weight and fat reduction.

According to scientific evidence, the inclusion of ALA in your diet translates to a 10% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, ALA improves heart health by decreasing blood pressure and protecting against artery damage. 

#3 Improve gut health

According to a publication by the Journal of Nutrition, the bioactive compounds in walnuts play an active role in promoting gastrointestinal health and subsequent disease outcomes. 

One study where 194 participants consumed 1.5 ounces of walnut daily for 8 weeks revealed an increase in beneficial gastrointestinal bacteria compared to those without a walnut-inclusive diet.

The science behind this is that healthy gastrointestinal organisms (gut microbiota) lead to good overall health as they are tied to everything from metabolism to immune function to your mood. 

Your diet greatly affects the composition of gut microbiota. An unhealthy composition of gastrointestinal bacteria will result in increased inflammation and susceptibility to diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and an array of cancers.

#4 Offer cancer protection

Walnut consumption has been linked to the reduction of certain types of cancers, particularly prostate, colon, and breast cancers.

The anti-cancer properties of walnuts come from their rich source of polyphenols, in this case, ellagitannins. Certain gastrointestinal bacterias convert these bioactive polyphenols into compounds called urolithins.

This compound is a primary inhibitor of colon cancer while also fighting against other cancer variations. Another interesting cancer-related fact about urolithins is that they possess hormone-related properties, allowing them to bind to and block hormone receptors in your body. 

This ability may have a range of implications for hormone-related conditions, such as breast cancer and endometriosis. More research is needed to understand exactly how urolithins impact hormone receptor function, but the potential implications are exciting.

#5 Help to manage type 2 diabetes

According to experts, eating walnuts helps lower the risk of type 2 diabetes because of their ability to promote healthy weight management. That is because the more weight you put on, the greater your high blood sugar and diabetes risk.

Eating walnuts helps slow down sugar absorption in food, thus balancing blood sugar levels.

One study, which featured 100 people with type 2 diabetes, revealed that consuming a tablespoon of cold-pressed walnut oil daily for a 3-month period, in addition to prescribed diabetes medication and a healthy diet, lowered their fasting blood sugar by as much as 8%.

On top of that, the candidates saw an 8% reduction in hemoglobin A1c. On the other hand, the control group did not experience improved hemoglobin A1c or fasting blood sugar. The only similarity between both groups was a lack of weight change.

#6 Support male reproductive health

Today, a good number of men suffer from reduced sperm function due to a diet that revolves around highly processed foods, sugar, and refined grains. Eating walnuts can boost sperm health (improving vitality and mobility) and male fertility.

According to one study, which featured 117 healthy young males, incorporating 75g of walnuts into their diet daily for 3 months led to improved sperm health compared to men who excluded walnuts.

However, more studies are needed to strongly affirm this benefit.

#7 Improve brain health

The phytochemicals in walnuts offer many health benefits, including improving brain health. That is because they help reduce oxidative stress and brain inflammation.

Additionally, the omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts play an active role in improving brain signaling and neurogenesis.

Observational studies in order adults highlighted that walnut consumption enhanced brain function significantly. These improved functions include memory, mental flexibility, and processing speed.

While the results of these studies are encouraging, they lack the quantity to affirm these claims. As such, more testing on eating walnuts’ positive effects on brain health is necessary to reach concrete conclusions.

#8 Support a healthy weight

If you are looking to lose weight, walnuts might be an important factor for you. This is primarily because walnuts contain a lot of fiber, which makes you feel fuller quicker.

While it is true that the calories present in walnuts rank on the high side, studies reveal that the energy absorbed from them is 21% less than expected based on their nutritional profile.

Furthermore, eating walnuts has been shown to curb increased appetite. According to a study, drinking a smoothie containing about 48 grams of walnut once a day for a 5-day period resulted in reduced hunger. The research was compared to a placebo drink with a similar nutrient profile.

#9 Improve heart health

According to reports by the Journal of Nutrition, eating walnuts offers positive effects regarding a reduced risk of heart disease.

For starters, walnuts are filled with healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which help decrease LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Increased LDL cholesterol levels result in atherosclerosis in the arteries, increasing the risk of stroke and heart attack.

According to studies, people who ate nuts more than 4 times weekly experienced a 37% reduction in coronary heart disease risks. The result was affirmed by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2013.

Walnuts are also known as anti-inflammatory agents, helping reduce oxidative stress. Likewise, walnut oil is known to positively influence endothelial function.

#10 Promote healthy aging

Walnuts are packed with the essential vitamins and nutrients necessary to promote physical and mental health. These nutrients combat hastened physical decline, allowing you to continue functioning even as you grow older.

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of walnuts help improve hair and skin health, combating dryness, wrinkles, and dark circles under the eyes.

5 Side Effects of Walnuts

While consuming walnuts exposes you to a plethora of health benefits, these nuts actually come with a fair share of side effects, particularly when overconsumed. Here are 5 common side effects of walnuts.

#1 Allergy

Nut allergies are one of the most common allergies around the globe. Some common symptoms of walnut allergies include itchy or swollen mouth and throat, difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, nasal congestion, and nausea.

In more severe allergic reactions, people can go into anaphylactic shock, which, if left untreated, can be fatal.

However, being allergic to walnuts does not always mean being allergic to all tree nuts. As such, it is important to seek medical advice before trying anything new.

#2 Digestive issues

While eating walnuts can help treat digestive issues, going overboard with your walnut consumption can aggregate them, leading to severe gastrointestinal distress.

That is because walnuts have a high fiber content. Some of the common signs of walnut-induced digestive issues include bloating, diarrhea, and stomach aches.

#3 Weight gain

Walnuts are rich sources of fiber and fats, which can help checkmate weight gain. However, walnuts are high in calories, meaning consuming too many can spark weight gain.

While studies show that incorporating walnuts into your diet can result in a higher daily energy intake, the resulting weight gain tends not to be that significant. However, the best way to checkmate all forms of weight gain is to stick to a sensible serving size.

Conversely, another research states that eating walnuts can activate a special region in the brain tasked with controlling impulses.

Given both findings, it would be best to seek medical advice.

#4 Ulcer aggravation

According to reports, a diet high in fiber may aggravate ulcers. 100g of walnuts possess a good amount of fiber, so overeating them increases the risk of worsening ulcers. 

#5 Choking concerns in children

Walnuts, as with other nuts, carry the risk of choking in children due to how large and firm they are. Children lack the right denture to bite through, break down, and swallow walnuts properly. Instead, chunks of walnuts might get lodged in the airway.

Nutritional Facts of Walnuts

Having assessed the benefits and side effects of walnuts, it is only right that we proffer more information (with a sample size of 100g) regarding the nutritional value. 

Nutritional value (per 100g)

Calories/Nutrient (per 100g)Amount
Calories (kcal)667
Sodium (mg)256
Net Carbs (g)5.2
Fiber (g)11
Sugar (g)4.17
Fats (Total)57.8
Protein (g)20.4

Source: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/323294/nutrients 

High in calories and fats 

Walnuts are high in calories, with 100g of walnuts containing about 667kcal. Likewise, they also contain a high level of healthy unsaturated fats (57.8g of fat per 100g serving). 

Healthy fats are necessary as they help boost brain function and lower the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Overall, this makes them a healthy addition to any diet, even keto.

High in protein

Walnuts provide a rich amount of proteins, which are necessary nutrients for building and repairing tissues and cells. A 100g serving of walnut accounts for 20.4g of protein.

High in carbohydrates

Walnuts contain about 5.2g of carbohydrates per 100g serving. This high carb content makes it mandatory to limit your serving size, especially if you are on a weight loss regimen. 

Healthy Recipe With Walnuts

There are many ways to enjoy walnuts. You can eat them raw or incorporate them into many healthy recipes. Here is a simple walnut recipe for you to enjoy – banana and walnut loaf.

Ingredients

  • 225g plain flour
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 100g softened butter
  • 85g chopped walnuts
  • 1.7oz/50ml milk
  • 4 extra ripe bananas
  • 2 tablespoons of baking powder
  • 1 beaten egg

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to about 350ºF/180°C. Line the base of a 2lb loaf tin with parchment paper and grease the entire tin with butter.
  • Mix butter, sugar, and egg in a large bowl until smooth, then mix in flour and baking powder slowly to avoid clumps.
  • Peel and mash the bananas and mix them into your flour mix, then pour in your chopped walnuts.
  • Pour the mix into the loaf tin and bake for an hour or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove the tin from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack.
  • Remove the loaf from the tin and serve. You can serve it with any topping of your choice.

While this breakfast option is relatively easy, there are many more healthy options that you can make for lunch, dinner, and even dessert by including walnuts. 

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FAQs

How many walnuts are in an ounce?

An ounce includes about 7 walnuts.

Are walnuts good or bad for you?

Walnuts are good for you. They are a rich source of healthy fats, fiber, and proteins. They also contain beneficial vitamins and minerals.

Do walnuts make you gain weight?

Eating too many walnuts can result in weight gain because of the high carb content.

Are walnuts high in fiber?

Walnuts have a high fiber content, containing about 11g per 100g serving.

A Word From Our Nutritionist

From a nutritional standpoint, walnuts are a great addition to your diet, as they contain high levels of good fats, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

However, eating too many walnuts can lead to potential health issues, including ulcer aggravation, stomach upset, and weight gain. To combat this, you should stick to a small serving size.

If you are unsure what serving size should be the norm, schedule an appointment with a qualified nutritionist. That is because they possess the tools, knowledge, and experience to help you through your journey to eating healthy.

Conclusion

Walnuts are a healthy option for anybody. They are filled with valuable nutrients, tasty, and versatile. As such, the health benefits of walnuts are top-tier. So, while on your next grocery shopping, do well to grab some walnuts.

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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