The walnut is a kind of nut with two-lobe, off-white bumpy kernel that has a thin light brown skin and is enclosed in a very hard brown shell which can be round or oblong. Walnuts that are consumed come in three main types- the English walnut or the Persian walnut, black walnut, and white walnut also known as butternut. The major commercial producers of walnuts at present are China, United States, Iran, Turkey, Ukraine, Romania etc.
Walnut is a member of tree nut family which also includes cashews, pistachios, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans and pine nuts. Walnuts are considered to be most nutritious among the nut family, even ahead of almonds.
Why is Walnut beneficial ?
Walnuts contain plenty of alpha-linolenic acid in the form of omega-3 essential fatty acids. Walnuts are rich in antioxidants. They contain several minerals including manganese, copper and several others. Walnuts health benefits are unique due to several reasons. Vitamin B6 found in walnuts is said to be more bio-available. Vitamin E is also present in an unusual concentration in the form of gamma-tocopherol in walnuts . Walnuts are also rich in phytonutrients.
Did you know ?
One cup of walnuts can provide you with the following (as % of daily requirement)
- 200% of manganese
- 93% of copper
- 46% of magnesium
- 40% of phosphorous
- 36% of proteins
- 31% dietary fiber
- 31% vitamin B6
- 27% Thiamin
Walnuts Health benefits
Walnuts health benefits come along with a good flavor and refreshing crunch. In order to get the maximum of walnuts health benefits, it is advised to have all the three main types and not just concentrate on any one. Walnuts are said to have antiviral, antibacterial and antiseptic properties and many other health benefits. Some of the walnuts health benefits are detailed here.
Benefits to heart : Walnuts create a favorable impact on several aspects of the cardiovascular system so that it functions optimally. Correct blood composition by decreasing LDL cholesterol and increasing omega 3 fatty acids in blood. It also provides plenty of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, inflammation regulating molecules in the right balance. All these aspects help blood vessels to respond to stimuli in a healthy way. Some varieties of walnuts significantly help in regulating blood pressure.
Walnuts also contain omega-3 fatty acids including alpha linolenic acid which improves cardiovascular health. Walnuts also decrease the risk of excessive blood clotting and excessive inflammation, both of which pose serious danger to heart.
Provides relief in MetS : MetS or Metabolic Syndrome is the occurrence of several metabolic problems overlapping each other. These problems can include high blood pressure, too much blood fats, low HDL or good cholesterol, and obesity. Walnut consumption also helps decrease fat deposits around abdomen.
Benefits in Type 2 diabetes : Functioning of blood vessels has been found to improve and LDL and total cholesterol have been found to decrease in Type 2 diabetes patients with consumption of walnuts.
Anticancer benefits : Walnuts can reduce the risk of prostate cancer and breast cancer thanks to the presence of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients in them.
Benefits to bones : A study published in Nutrition Journal, 2007, points out that walnuts can help in the formation of healthy bones because of the presence of alpha-linolenic acid. Walnut intake reduces collagen level in blood more bone stability and less mineral loss from bones.
Helps cognitive function : In studies conducted on rats, British Journal of Nutrition reports that walnuts have been found to reverse motor and cognitive defects that occur in relation with age. Although it has not been established if it has properties to ward off dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Improves mood : Walnuts being rich in omega-3 rule out hyperactivity and irritability which are caused by a lack of omega-3. Thus it leads to general improvement in mood.
Effective against insomnia : Sleep is induced and body feels tired when the hormone melatonin is produced in the body. Walnuts being a natural source of melatonin can help in getting good sleep. Therefore, it is advisable for night shift workers to eat walnuts.
Walnuts prevent gallstones : The risk of formation of gallstones is found to decrease with the consumption of walnuts.
Improves immunity : The highest level of popyphenolic antioxidants in any nuts is found in walnuts. Eating a few walnuts everyday can help scavenge the free radicals inside the body thus preventing diseases.
Benefits to skin : Walnuts contain plenty of vitamin E in the form of gamma-tocopherol. Vitamin E protects skin from harmful effects of oxygen free radicals and maintains the integrity of cell membrane of mucus membranes. Walnut oil is an excellent astringent that helps keep away dryness of the skin.
Helps lose weight : Walnuts contain anti-inflammatory nutrients which overpower the high-fats and high-calories in walnuts and hence instead of increasing fat and weight, walnut consumption results in weight loss and fat reduction.
Usage, selection and storage of walnuts
The skin on walnuts is extremely nutritious and hence it is always better to keep them on. The skin has a light bitterness but it doesn’t affect the taste much and hence can be eaten. Walnuts can be eaten as such or chopped or broken and added to salads.
When buying the whole walnuts with their shell on, choose the ones that are heavier for their size. The shells shouldn’t have stains or cracks as this may indicate mold formation. Avoid buying the walnuts that look shriveled.
Walnuts are highly perishable. Shelled walnuts when stored in airtight containers inside refrigerator will stay fresh for around six months and inside freezer will remain fresh for around one year. Unshelled walnuts may preferably be stored in refrigerator. But they can also remain fresh for up to six months if stored in airtight containers in cool, dark and dry conditions.
Delicious Lentil Walnut Veggie Burgers!
Precautions while using walnuts
Tree nuts family of which walnut is a member is found to be a highly allergy causing food group. Walnuts can induce allergy in its pure form or even when used processed. Therefore those who suffer from food allergies must avoid consumption of walnuts after consulting with a medical practitioner. Food allergy symptoms may occur also because of other reasons, so it is best to seek medical advice in order to determine the exact allergy causing factor.
Walnuts health benefits have been studied in detail and properly established and hence there is no need to think twice before adding walnuts to your daily diet regimen. Walnuts can either be used for refreshing or for calming depending on the context. They are very tasty too. A small portion can sometimes contribute significant benefits. And even though walnuts are normally harvested in the month of December, packed walnuts are always available all year round and in most of the places.