Leading a healthy lifestyle involves healthy eating, regular exercises, enough water and positive thinking. There are all sorts of recipes, methods, and ways for bettering your life and improving your health. Introducing walnuts in your diet is among them as recent studies reconfirm it. How can they help you boost your health? Read on to find out more.
Health benefits of walnuts
More often than not, the simplest foods are the best for one’s health. Walnuts are among these foods. Nuts contain protein, plant sterols, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and other nutrients, and so do walnuts. Many research studies link the consumption of walnuts with several health benefits. Thus, they can:
• Reduce the risk of certain cancers. Studies suggest that the consumption of walnuts on a regular basis may reduce the risk of prostate cancer and breast cancer.
• Support heart health. Thanks to the amino acid l-arginine walnuts contain, they can offer benefits to people with heart disease or with a high risk for heart diseases. Moreover, walnuts contain plant-based omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which has anti-inflammatory properties that may prevent pathological blood clots from forming. Studies have shown that people with a diet rich in ALA have a lower risk for fatal heart attack and sudden cardiac death.
• Support overall health thanks to the rare and powerful antioxidants they contain. Antioxidants combat free radicals and the ones walnuts contain are found only in a few foods. Studies have shown that walnut polyphenols can have a positive action in preventing chemically-induced liver damage.
• Boost brain health. Researchers have shown that thanks to their antioxidants, melatonin, vitamin E, folate, and omega-3 fats, walnuts may support brain health. Moreover, they can increase inferential reasoning in young people. They can “decrease the enhanced vulnerability to oxidative stress that occurs in aging,” “increase health span,” and “enhance cognitive and motor function in aging” as one study suggests.
• Help people with diabetes. The healthy fats in walnuts can help people with type 2 diabetes improve metabolic parameters as one study suggests. The overweight people with type 2 diabetes that participated in the study and had ¼ cup of walnuts on a daily basis noticed significant reductions in fasting insulin levels unlike those who did not eat walnuts.
• Walnuts may improve male fertility. One health benefit of walnuts not too many people know about is the impact they have on male fertility. One study involving men with a Western-style diet showed that the participants who added 75 grams of walnuts to their daily diet improved the quality of their sperm, motility, vitality and morphology included.
• Walnuts can help you maintain an ideal weight. Several studies that focused on walnuts and their weight-related benefits reached the conclusion that the people who had extra nuts or used them as a substitute for other foods lost about 1.4 extra pounds. Walnuts have also been linked to increased satiety after a few days.
Walnuts – what do studies say?
A recent study suggests that a daily handful of walnuts can help people lower their risk factors for type 2 diabetes. The people who participated in the study and had walnuts on a daily basis for six months improved their blood vessel function and decreased LDL or bad cholesterol levels, unlike people who did not have walnuts. High levels of LDL and a poor function of the blood vessel are related to type 2 diabetes.
Dr. David Katz, the author of the study and the founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in Derby, Connecticut, says that walnuts contain vitamin E and folate as well as fatty acids and other nutrients. He says that the purpose of the study was to see if people who have walnuts on a regular basis will start to gain weight over time since walnuts are rich in calories. Researchers wanted to know if the metabolic benefits of walnuts will then be outshined by weight gain.
112 people participated in the study out of which 31 were men and 81 were women with ages between 25 and 75. All of them had a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The participants were divided into two groups. The first group received counseling with regard to changes in their total calorie intake while the other group received no counseling. Then, one group received 2 ounces of walnuts on a daily basis for six months whereas the other group had no walnuts.
Six months later, the group that did not use walnuts started to introduce them in their diet and the people in the other group no longer used them. Several indicators and measuring methods were used to assess the health of the people who participated in the study.
Researchers focused on measuring the participants’ weight, body-mass index (BMI), Diet quality, blood pressure, cholesterol, height, glucose, waist circumference and blood-vessel function. Researchers also kept an eye on the participants’ exercise levels, age, calorie and fatty acid intake. During the trial period, they noticed blood-vessel function improvements and a boost in diet quality when the participants had walnuts.
Published in the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, November 23th, the study says that researchers have noticed an increase in the body fat of the people who used walnuts but received no counseling regarding a reduction of their calorie intake, unlike the people in the other group who did receive counseling regarding a calorie intake reduction.
The introduction of walnuts into the participants’ diet did not affect blood pressure and HDL or good cholesterol levels. It did increase the blood glucose level in some cases no matter if the participants received dietary counseling or not. Significant positive changes in waist circumference were noticed in people who received counseling regarding the reduction of their calorie intake.
Further studies are needed before knowing precisely how diet, walnuts and dietary counseling work together. Plus, Katz talks about studying this matter on people interested in losing weight.