Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Eating Well
Walnuts provide many health benefits
Christeena Haynes, MS, RD, LD, former Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Dallas County, University of Missouri Extension
October is the season for harvesting walnuts in Missouri. Not only are walnuts tasty, but they are also very nutritious.
Walnuts contain more alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 essential fatty acid necessary for a healthy human body, than any other nut and are one of the best plant food sources of omega-3s. Walnuts are also high in healthy polyunsaturated fat, have been shown to reduce total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, and protect the heart overall.
Walnuts provide several antioxidants, including vitamin E. In fact, in a study testing the antioxidant content of 1,113 different foods, walnuts were ranked second only to blackberries for the highest content. Antioxidants boost the immune system and help prevent the production of free radicals, which in turn helps protect against the development of chronic diseases associated with aging.
Walnuts are a good source of protein and fiber. Dietary fiber contributes to a healthy gastrointestinal tract and makes you feel full, which helps with weight management. Walnuts also contain magnesium and phosphorus, which are important for reaching optimal health. Research has shown that walnuts improve cognitive and motor function as well.
Researchers have found that consuming 1.5 ounces, or about 20 halves, of walnuts every day is helpful. This amounts to about 278 calories, so remember to substitute them for something else in your diet instead of adding them to your typical daily intake in order to prevent weight gain.
Purchase whole walnuts that are heavy for their size. Walnuts spoil easily because of their high fat content so shelled walnuts should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to six months or in the freezer for up to one year. Unshelled nuts should be kept in the refrigerator or in a cool, dark, dry environment for up to six months.
California Walnut Commission. 2011. Walnut nutrition information. Retrieved May 27, 2011, from http://www.walnuts.org/
Mayo Clinic Staff. Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health. Retrieved May 27, 2011, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/nuts/HB00085
Mills-Gray, S. 2011. Walnuts can boost your health. Retrieved May 27, 2011, from Silver Threads newsletter.
Last update: Monday, October 17, 2016