4 Surprising Health Benefits of Walnuts

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.

Add a handful of walnuts to your morning parfait or oatmeal for extra heart-healthy benefits. (Image: SMarina/iStock/GettyImages)
From a healthy heart to stronger bones, learn about the potential health benefits of walnuts. (Image: Graphic: LIVESTRONG.com Creative)

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.

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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.

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 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.

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.

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," says Enright.

"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.

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.

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.

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.

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