If you are overweight, have a pot-belly, metabolic syndrome, or diabetes, daily consumption of walnuts will help you. Why? Like most nuts, walnuts are rich in fiber, anti-oxidants, unsaturated oils, and blood vessel health-promoting minerals such as magnesium and potassium. Unlike other nuts, walnuts provide the omega-3 fat, alpha linolenic acid. Like other omega-3 fats, alpha linolenic combats inflammation. All these factors help promote health, but there is something more.
Help Your Blood Vessels
The conditions listed above (obesity, metabolic syndrome, etc.) impair the endothelial cells (in your blood vessels) from making vasodilators which keep your blood vessels open and your blood pressure within normal range. These conditions also increase inflammation within your body. Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in Connecticut conducted an eight week study using obese individuals who were non-smokers, with at least one risk factor for pre-diabetes. Two groups were chosen and were told to eat their normal diet, but half the group was given a measured amount of walnuts to eat with his/her meals, or for a snack. Those who daily ate the walnuts for eight weeks showed definite improvement in the ability of the blood vessels to dilate. They also showed a reduction in systolic blood pressure.1
Walnuts for Diabetes
More intakes of nuts (as well as whole grain and low-fat dairy) and less intake of meat can reduce diabetes risk by as much as 35 percent. Higher consumption of walnuts, two or three times a week, is associated with significant reduced risk for diabetes type 2 in women.2 But what if you already have diabetes? Diabetes substantially increases the risk for cardiovascular disease. Daily consumption of walnuts also improves the ability of the blood vessels to dilate in individuals who have diabetes type 2. Even though walnuts added calories to these diabetic study participants, they did not gain weight.3
Aid for Cardiovascular Health
In a randomized-controlled trial, researchers gave 15 participants, with elevated blood cholesterol, one of four walnut products. They found that the ones who were given walnut oil showed a particularly good outcome at preserving the function of endothelial cells which play an important role in cardiovascular health. Those that consumed whole walnuts showed improvement of their HDL, the good cholesterol. The HDL performed more effectively in transporting and removing excess cholesterol from the body.4 Other studies show that when walnuts provide 10% of the daily total calories, total cholesterol and LDL (the bad cholesterol) and certain inflammatory markers decrease.5
Along with a good heart healthy diet and regular exercise, the frequent addition of walnuts to your diet may help your cardiovascular health. Be sure to use unsalted walnuts. Add them to entrées to enhance the flavor of vegetable based burgers, and grain dishes.
- Katz, D., et al. Effects of Walnuts on Endothelial Function in Overweight Adults with Visceral Obesity: A Randomized, Controlled, Crossover Trial. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2012; 31 (6): 415 DOI: 10.1080/07315724.2012.10720468
- Katz, D., The Case for Walnuts, www.huffingtonpost.com/david…/walnut-health-benefits_b_926010.htm…
- Pan A, et al., Walnut consumption is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes in women. J Nutr. 2013 Apr;143(4):512-8. doi: 10.3945/jn.112.172171
- Whole walnuts and their extracted oil improve cardiovascular disease risk. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 27, 2013, from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130508123019.htm
- Banel, DK., et al., Effects of walnut consumption on blood lipids and other cardiovascular risk factors: a meta-analysis and systematic review. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19458020