Nutrition, Health & Wellness

7 Nutritional Benefits of Walnuts: How They Boost Mood, Memory, and More!

Anytime I need a quick and easy source of protein, I tap into the nutritional benefits of walnuts. Not only are they incredibly delicious raw or roasted, but they’re so easy to incorporate into your diet. You can put them on top of simple meals such as oatmeal, salads, and dairy-free yogurts or even just eat a few as a snack.

But aside from their flavor and ease of use, the nutritional benefits of walnuts are simply incredible. From supporting brain health to keeping your waistline in check, walnuts are one of the healthiest and overall best sources of protein you can find!

So, let’s dive in and learn all about walnuts—what makes them so nutritious, all the benefits you can expect from eating them regularly, and some great recipes with walnuts that you can try out!

 

What Makes Walnuts So Healthy?

You may be surprised to learn that walnuts have long been revered for their nutrient profile. First, walnuts contain essential fatty acids known as omega-3 fatty acids, which are linked to slower aging and lower systemic inflammation. [1]

Additionally, consuming omega-3s has been show to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression. According to a 2018 meta-analysis on more than 1,200 participants, the more omega-3s people consumed, the greater the impact they had on symptoms of anxiety. [2]

Walnuts are also rich in protein and fiber as well as many vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, manganese, copper, magnesium, and vitamin E. Moreover, walnuts are one of the greatest sources of polyphenols, the beneficial plant-based micronutrients responsible for walnuts’ antioxidant power.

This is important because the main polyphenol in walnuts is known to contain anti-inflammatory properties, promote healthy gut bacteria, and even offer protective properties against everything from cancer to cardiovascular disease to neurodegenerative diseases. [3] Pretty incredible, right?

Now that you have a better idea of their nutrient profile, let’s discuss the various nutritional benefits of walnuts.

7 Nutritional Benefits of Walnuts

Here are seven of the top nutritional benefits of walnuts, from supporting heart health to improving your memory!

1. Rich in antioxidants

First, as we discussed above, thanks to their role as a rich source of polyphenols, walnuts are also a great source of antioxidants. Why is this one of the important nutritional benefits of walnuts? Well, antioxidants are the compounds in your body that fight free radicals, which are known to promote many of the chronic diseases we’re experiencing today.

According to a 2012 scientific article published in Food & Function Journal, walnuts have the highest free and total polyphenols of all nuts. And this remains true whether they’re raw or roasted.

Furthermore, studies have shown that polyphenol antioxidants promote health by binding to lipoproteins, an action that inhibits the harmful oxidative process that leads to plaque buildup in the walls of your arteries. [4]

2. Associated with lower rates of heart attack

Another one of the incredible nutritional benefits of walnuts is their ability help lower the risk of heart attacks. But how do they do that?

First, consuming antioxidant-rich nuts such as walnuts has been shown to improve triglycerides and support endothelial function, two major cardiovascular disease risk factors. [5]

Second, the fatty acids in walnuts have been shown to protect microglial cells from inflammation. Microglial cells are certain types of cells located in your central nervous system that are responsible for removing damaged neurons and infections from your body.

Interestingly, in animal studies, scientists have found that those with heart disease have higher microglial activation in their brains than those who don’t have heart disease. [6]

In other human studies, researchers have found that consuming walnuts is associated with lower rates of heart attacks due to their potential to help restore normal heart rhythm and conduction. [7]

3. Linked to longer lifespan

Perhaps one of the most promising nutritional benefits of walnuts is that consuming them has been linked to overall lower disease risk and, as a result, longer lifespan.

First, it’s well-established that aging is considered one of the major risk factors for developing chronic diseases. This is largely due to the body losing its ability to effectively respond to stress stimuli, which results in cellular damage and, ultimately, disease.

Fortunately, consuming antioxidant-rich nuts such as walnuts has been shown to have some protective properties against the aging process.

In fact, according to a 2010 study, eating a diet rich in the omega-3s found in walnuts actually helped to slow telomere shortening. But even more interesting? Those who didn’t consume enough omega-3s were likely to experience telomere shortening at an accelerated rate. [8]

In addition, according to a 2019 review, consuming antioxidant rich nuts helped to prevent or delay age-related diseases in people aged 55 years and older. The researchers specifically stated that increasing consumption of antioxidant-rich nuts “clearly impacts many risk factors related to aging and can extend health span and lifespan.” [9]

4. Supports healthy weight management

One of the common concerns about consuming nuts is the fact that they can be associate with weight gain. That’s why one of the most popular nutritional benefits of walnuts is its positive effect on weight management.

In a 2017 study, researchers randomly assigned overweight and obese men and women to either a standard reduced-calorie diet or a walnut-enriched reduced-calorie diet. While both groups reduced their body weight, body mass index, and waist circumference, the walnut-enriched group also saw improved cholesterol and blood pressure levels after six months. [10]

Moreover, in a different 2017 study on 293 participants, researchers discovered that consuming 30 grams of walnuts each day had positive effects on weight loss.

In fact, in comparison to other dietary measures, those who consumed the walnuts daily not only achieved the greatest weight loss after three months, but they also reported significant improvements in healthy food choices and eating less junk food. In addition, those who consumed walnuts were more successful at maintaining their weight loss at the one-year mark. [11]

5. May boost mood

If you’ve ever had a stressful day that’s impacted your mood, you’ll want to pay special attention to this nutritional benefit: Eating walnuts may actually help boost your mood!

According to a 2016 study, college males who regularly consumed walnuts reported improved moods, on average, by 27.49 percent. [12]

Specifically, the researchers believed that the effects may come from the neuroprotective compounds found in walnuts. These include vitamin E, folate, melatonin and multiple polyphenols. [13]

6. Supports gut health

As we’ve discussed before, I have a history of digestive difficulties. And that’s why one of my personal favorite nutritional benefits of walnuts is their ability support gut health. It’s one of the reasons I like to toss some walnuts on many of my foods and even use them as a base in some homemade sauces.

But how do walnuts support gut health? Well, according to a 2018 study, eating walnuts is linked in an increase in beneficial bacteria within the gut. [14]

When the researchers studied the effects of consuming walnuts on 194 healthy adults, they discovered that daily consumption 43 grams of walnuts for eight weeks significantly enhanced probiotic– and butyric acid-producing bacteria in their gut microbiome.

7. Can help improve memory

Finally, you may not be surprised to learn that one of the great nutritional benefits of walnuts is their ability help boost memory. After all, have you ever noticed how walnuts are shaped like a brain? It’s really pretty fascinating when you think about it. And research backs this link.

According to a 2012 study, polyphenol-rich foods have been positively associated with improved cognitive function in the elderly population. Specifically, the researchers found that walnut consumption was associated with improved working memory (also known as short-term memory). [15]

It’s also important to note that the quality of your working memory is also important for proper reasoning and decision-making skills.

 

Nutritional benefits of walnuts - Dr. Pingel

 

As you can see, there are many nutritional benefits of walnuts that you can tap into just by consuming them on a regular basis. If you’re looking for some specific recipes featuring walnuts, try out any of these:

You’re sure to love these flavorful and healthy dishes. Here’s to your health!

 

Key Takeaways

  • From supporting brain health to keeping your waistline in check, walnuts are one of the healthiest and overall best sources of protein you can find!
  • Some of the top nutritional benefits of walnuts include: being rich in antioxidants, boosting mood, potentially lowering risk of heart attack, supporting gut health, supporting healthy weight management, being linked to longer lifespan, and boosting memory.
  • If you’re looking to incorporate more walnuts into your diet, you can use them on top of many dishes, such as oatmeal, salads, and dairy-free yogurt or in many different recipes. The options are endless!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.