6 Surprising Health Benefits of Walnuts

LIVESTRONG.com may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.
Add a handful of walnuts to your morning parfait or oatmeal for extra heart-healthy benefits.
Image Credit: SMarina/iStock/GettyImages

There's no such thing as a single food that'll help you lose weight, prevent every disease in the book and extend your life. But the humble walnut comes pretty darn close. From a healthy heart to stronger bones, walnuts have a number of surprising potential health benefits.

Read more: 9 Healthy Nuts That May Help You Live Longer

Walnuts' Nutrition Facts

A one-ounce serving of walnuts (approximately 14 halves) contains 8 percent of your daily value (DV) of fiber and over 4 grams of protein, according to the USDA. At 186 calories and 9 percent of your DV for saturated fat, walnuts are rich in energy and fat and low in carbs and sugar.

What's more, walnuts pack an impressive punch of essential minerals. In just one ounce of walnuts, you'll get:

  • 50 percent of your DV for copper
  • 5 percent of your DV for iron
  • 11 percent of your DV for magnesium
  • 42 percent of your DV for manganese
  • 8 percent of your DV for phosphorus
  • 8 percent of your DV for zinc

Here are five ways all that nutrition in walnuts can help you.

Learn how to fill your plate with healthy, nutrient-dense foods by logging your meals on the MyPlate app. Download now to fine-tune your diet today!

1. Walnuts Are Linked to a Healthy Heart

Walnuts could be a heart-healthy addition to your diet since they're a great source of omega-3s, Mandy Enright, RDN, dietitian and fitness instructor, tells LIVESTRONG.com. In fact, diets rich in walnuts could lower cholesterol and triglycerides, according to a July 2018 meta-analysis in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

What's more, women who noshed on walnuts (and other types of nuts) at least once per week were observed to have a 13 to 19 percent lower risk of total heart disease and 15 to 23 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease than those who didn't eat nuts, a November 2017 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found.

Read more: 11 Simple Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy and Strong

2. They Just Might Boost Your Brain

The brain-shaped nut may be good for your noggin: Eating walnuts was observed to slow cognitive decline, specifically in older adults who are at risk, according to a January 2020 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The researchers chalk these brain benefits to walnuts' anti-inflammatory properties (more on that in a minute), given that inflammation is a key driver behind cognitive decline.

Regularly noshing on walnuts (at least two servings per week) is also linked to healthy aging in women, which includes sound mental health and no major cognitive issues after age 65, according to a February 2020 study in the Journal of Aging Research. The observational study looked at data from nearly 34,000 women who were part of the Nurses' Health Study. Although the findings build on previous research linking walnuts and brain health, it should be noted that this particular study was supported by the California Walnut Commission, so it may be best to take it with a grain of salt.

3. Walnuts May Be Good for Your Gut

Snacking on a handful of walnuts can also benefit your bowel movements. That's right, walnuts can help keep you regular thanks to their fiber content. Fiber softens your stool, making it easier to pass, and reduces your risk of constipation and hemorrhoids, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Depending on your age and gender, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend you consume between 25 and 30 grams of fiber a day. With just an ounce of walnuts, you get about 2 grams of fiber.

Not only can the fiber in walnuts keep your digestive system working smoothly, it may also help protect it from diseases. According to an October 2015 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, diets high in fiber are linked to lowering your risk of colon cancer.

4. What About Weight Loss?

When it comes to weight loss, walnuts get a bad rap because they're high in fat and calories. But even if you're trying to shed a few pounds, you shouldn't shy away from them.

"The truth is the healthy fat and fiber content in walnuts can help increase fullness, curb hunger and slow blood glucose absorption, which can limit intake of extra calories between (or even during) meals," Enright says.

"While eating walnuts isn't directly correlated to weight loss, a diet that includes walnuts, along with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins, can help with weight management," she adds.

Not convinced? The same earlier July 2018 article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also reported that consuming a moderate number of nuts didn't result in weight gain. Enright recommends eating an ounce, approximately 14 walnut halves, a day.

Read more: 4 Good Reasons to Add Nuts to Your Weight-Loss Plan

5. Eating Walnuts Is Linked to Better Bone Health

A few walnuts a day can also provide ample amounts of the minerals needed to help stave off brittle bones. Walnuts contain high levels of copper, which can improve bone density, says Enright. Copper also plays a role in the maintenance of collagen and elastin, which help to form bone and connective tissue structure.

Walnuts are also loaded with manganese, which is also essential for healthy bone mineralization, and cartilage and collagen production, according to a February 2017 review in Clinical Cases in Mineral and Bone Metabolism.

They also contain plenty of magnesium, the third mineral in this bone-boosting trio. The same 2017 article reported that magnesium has a protective effect on bone quality. In fact, a magnesium deficiency may even lead to osteoporosis.

6. Walnuts Are Associated With Less Inflammation

Another reason you should go nuts for walnuts? They contain powerful plant-based polyphenols — antioxidants that may provide protection against certain diseases.

Researchers found that the potency of antioxidants present in walnuts ranked higher than all other nuts, including almonds, pecans and pistachios, per a February 2012 study published in Food & Function. What's more, the antioxidants in raw walnuts were up to 15 times as potent as vitamin E, which is well-known for its ability to protect cells from damaging free radicals.

Read more: 6 Anti-Inflammatory Recipes Ready in 10 Minutes or Less

Since the antioxidants in walnuts may help fight against oxidative stress — the imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body — they may also reduce inflammation, says Enright. In fact, a diet rich in nuts is associated with less inflammation that plays a role in inflammatory diseases like atherosclerosis, according to a September 2016 review in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Warning

People with nut allergies shouldn’t eat walnuts. If you develop a rash or difficulty breathing after consuming walnuts, seek medical attention immediately.

From a healthy heart to stronger bones, learn about the potential health benefits of walnuts.
Image Credit: Graphic: LIVESTRONG.com Creative

references
Show Comments