We all know that nuts of many varieties offer plenty of nutritional benefits, but if you had to choose just one nut, I would recommend the walnut. The walnut contains many nutrients that have multiple health benefits, but what may be one of the most astounding benefits of the nut is its impact on cardiovascular health.
Walnuts contain a number of nutrients that allow them to rank #1 above peanuts, pistachios, almonds and many other nutty favorites. One of the reasons is their high level of antioxidants, where you can get almost twice the amount in a serving of walnuts compared to other nuts. The primary antioxidant found in walnuts is Vitamin E. Walnuts are also a great source of dietary fiber and protein as well as magnesium and potassium.
To give a quick nutritional run-down, walnuts contain about 185 calories per 1 ounce serving, 18.5 grams of fat, 3.9 g of carbohydrates, 4.3g of protein, and 1.9 g of fiber. Some people may be turned off by the seemingly high calorie and fat content; however it is important to keep in mind that these are “good fats” and the nutritional benefits far outweigh the calories. Not to mention, walnuts also have a low glycemic index (GI) level, for those who are conscious of these factors. You should not be worried about weight gain from these elements, especially if you are mindful of the recommended portion sizes.
The main reason that walnuts offer great cardiovascular benefit is the fact that they contain monounsaturated fats, which work wonders for the heart. In order for our cardiovascular system to work properly, there are a number of properties that need to be in balance, such as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. Fortunately, the nutrients in walnuts can affectively play a role in many of these necessary properties.
Omega-3: To begin, walnuts help to improve the overall blood quality by lowering the bad cholesterol, while increasing the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids present in the blood cells. The nutrients in the nut also help prevent against excessive blood clotting and inflammation. These components are necessary to maintaining healthy blood pressure and a balanced cardiovascular system overall.
Unsaturated Fats: The monounsaturated fats found in walnuts also help to lower one’s cholesterol levels.
Fiber: This is an element that we are familiar with as it lowers cholesterol, but also helps keep you feeling full longer, so that you do not overeat, making your weight loss or maintenance goals more feasible.
Vitamin E: This element has been shown to improve blood vessel elasticity as well as decreasing the amount of plaque build up in the arteries, which is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
Plant sterols and L-arginine are also found in walnuts and aside from lowering the “bad cholesterol” (LDL), they also help reduce the presence of C-Reactive Protein (CRP), which has been shown to be an indicator of heart disease.
Current research has shown that people who eat nuts are more likely to have higher levels of certain nutrients, such as fiber, potassium, calcium, magnesium and Vitamin E. Although there is some variance between the types of specific walnuts and their relative health benefits, in general, the variance seems to be insignificant. As far as the bigger picture goes, science has indicated regardless of what type of walnut, the walnut, in general has higher sources of antioxidants than most other nuts. This is the take away piece from the research that is most prominent for our health benefit.
To increase your intake of this nut, you can easily incorporate some of these methods:
Chop up a handful and throw them into your lunch salad, side vegetable dish or even desserts.
Eat them alone as a healthy snack
Sprinkle into your oatmeal
Add as a pizza topping
One thing to remember is that when you heat the walnut by roasting or toasting it, the heat decreases the level of antioxidants, so the best way to consume them is to eat them unroasted or raw. Some research has shown that by eating just seven walnuts a day, you can reap many of the described health benefits.
If you are already a nut eater, then switching over to this wonder-nut should not be that difficult. If you are not used to incorporating nuts into your daily diet, then you may need to use some of the mentioned tips to mask them and sneak them in to your favorite dishes. However you decide to incorporate them, you will be doing yourself a great service and your heart will thank you in the long run. The cardiovascular benefits far surpass those of other nuts, making the walnut a heart-healthy supernut!