“A little goes a long way” is a perfect phrase to describe a category of food that’s crammed with nutrients and health benefits.
While a dietary shortfall of this food is believed to put you at major risk for disability or death, all you have to eat is a single ounce a day, or even less, to protect your health and extend your life by a couple of years.
The food group is nuts. And which type of nut is the best? Brazil nuts? Almonds? Keep reading. . .
While all types of nuts make an outstanding contribution to health, walnuts probably top the list for benefits.
Protects Against Heart Disease, Arthritis and Cancer
Walnuts are one of the best sources of free radical-fighting antioxidants and also contain high amounts of plant-derived polyunsaturated fats. These include the anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids, so important for decreasing the risk of heart disease and dementia, and useful as well for treating and preventing arthritis.
Other important compounds in walnuts include ellagic acid, a phytonutrient important in cancer prevention; arginine, which helps keep blood vessels smooth and flexible; and plant sterols which aid in lowering cholesterol.
Walnuts are also packed with vitamins and minerals, and are a good source of protein.
Studies show they are the nut of choice when it comes to suppressing cancer cell growth. Commenting on a recently published lab study, Daniel W Rosenberg of the University of Connecticut said:
“Our results show for the first time that walnut consumption may reduce colon tumor development. There is accumulating evidence that eating walnuts may offer a variety of benefits related to health issues like cancer.”
Cancer protection was demonstrated in a large study of 7,000 people.
Of all the varieties of nuts eaten by the participants, walnuts were by far the most important in preventing cancer deaths. Eating more than three ounces a week cut the risk of dying from cancer in half.
The walnut was the only nut inversely associated with cancer mortality. The more walnuts eaten, the lower the number of cancer deaths.
The WAHA Study
Researchers from the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona and California’s Loma Linda University were so impressed with the health benefits of walnuts, they set up a two-year clinical trial called the Walnuts and Healthy Aging (WAHA) study.
It includes 707 people with an average age of 69. Half the participants added a handful of walnuts to their daily diet. The other half served as a comparison group. They ate no additional nuts.
One year into the study, preliminary results show the walnut group had a significant reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol while seeing no change in body weight. The latter finding is important because many people wrongly believe nuts cause you to put on weight.
Dr. Emilio Ros, who led the study, said, “Acquiring the good fats and other nutrients from walnuts while keeping adiposity [body fat] at bay and reducing blood cholesterol levels are important to overall nutritional well-being of aging adults. It’s encouraging to see that eating walnuts may benefit this particular population.”
Walnuts Benefit The Brain Too
A growing body of research supports walnut consumption as protective against cognitive decline. One study concluded that a diet rich in walnuts would help protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
Another found that among all nuts, only walnuts were associated with better working memory. This allows us to remember important information we need for short periods of time, a useful skill, for example, when following a set of directions.
A review of walnuts in brain health concluded that they could slow the aging of the brain and reduce the risk of chronic neurodegenerative disease.
Nuts in general – and walnuts in particular – are packed to the rafters with nutrients. That’s why as little as three ounces per week provide significant health benefits.
So go ahead and enjoy this tasty snack. It’s one of the best dietary choices you can make.