When it comes to nuts and the health benefits they provide, variety is always best. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition stated that eating just 13 grams of nuts daily could cut your risk of a heart attack by 30% due to the high content of Omega-3 fatty acids found in nuts, so that alone is worth getting the nut cracker our for. But for heart health, walnuts deserve a specific mention all of their own, as these nuts pack a punch when it comes to providing benefits for our cardiovascular health.
Let’s start with their effect on atherosclerosis, which is the fatty plaque build-up that can occur in the arteries and is a big risk factor for heart diseases, especially heart attacks. Walnuts have been shown to reduce the build-up of these atherosclerosis plaques mainly because walnuts are composed of about 47% polyunsaturated acids, which are healthy fats. The specific healthy fat found in walnuts in high quantities is called alpha-linoleic acid (the plant based form of omega 3), which has been shown to reduce plaque buildup in the coronary arteries, as well as improve the general function of blood vessels. Eating just 25g of walnuts a day provides you with 90% of your omega-3 fatty acids recommended daily intake and due to the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3, consuming walnuts has also been shown to help lower blood pressure, reduce stroke risk and prevent coronary artery disease.
If that wasn’t enough of a reason to add walnuts to your menu then here is another one. They are great at lowering cholesterol levels too. Many studies have shown walnuts help increase the ratio of high –density lipoprotein, HDL cholesterol, (also known as good cholesterol) to total cholesterol, as well as significantly decreasing LDL cholesterol levels (bad cholesterol) too. Studies done on this suggest that walnuts can help to lower this bad cholesterol by between 9-16%, which may not sound huge, but actually has a significant impact on reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems.
For those thinking that nuts are high in fat and therefore detrimental to heart health and the waist line, you would be wrong. Although walnuts contain about 65% fat by weight and they are an energy dense food with a high calorie content, studies consistently indicate that walnuts do not increase the risk of obesity when replacing other foods in your diet. Like anything they should be eaten in moderation, but when walnuts are eaten in small but regular amounts the benefits for heart health are huge and the risk is zero.
Eating walnuts couldn’t be easier, add them to your breakfast, eat as a snack, scatter on salads, or add to flapjacks. The choice is yours, but walnuts would definitely be first choice if your heart was choosing.
RESOURCES & FURTHER READING:
Walnuts decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease: a summary of efficacy and biological mechanisms, 2014. The Journal of Nutrition
Nuts, especially walnuts, have both antioxidant quantity and efficacy and exhibit significant health benefits, 2012. Food & Function
Effects of walnut consumption on blood lipids and other cardiovascular risk factors: An updated met-analysis and systematic review of controlled trials, 2018. American Journal of Nutrition.
Nutritional and health benefits of walnuts, 2018. Journal of Pharmocognosy and Phytochemistry