Delicious news: Walnuts are packed with nearly twice as much disease-fighting antioxidants than any other type of nut, according to an analysis presented at a recent scientific conference. What’s more, the antioxidants in walnuts are up to 15 times more potent than vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant vitamin that protects against health-harming free radical damage).
Scientists around the world have linked the tasty nibbles with an amazing array of health benefits. A Harvard study reports that women who ate walnuts regularly trimmed their risk for developing type 2 diabetes by up to 24 percent, compared to those who ate them rarely, even when body mass index (BMI) was taken into account. The researchers tracked about 140,000 women over a 10-year period.
Along with powerful antioxidants, walnuts also contain high-quality protein, dietary fiber, and a bounty of health-boosting vitamins and minerals. They’re also rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) that may help combat insulin resistance, the root cause of type 2 diabetes. And despite being relatively high in fat and calories, walnuts have been linked to lower risk for weight gain and obesity, probably because the meaty nuggets are filling and are typically eaten in moderation.
Walnuts help ward off heart disease—and even combat stress, an intriguing study published in Journal of the American College of Nutrition suggests. People with high cholesterol were put on one of three diets with identical calories and amounts of fat and protein. One diet was nut-free, in the second diet 1.3 ounces of walnuts (about 9 walnuts) and a tablespoon of walnut oil provided some of the protein and fat, and the third included walnuts, walnut oil, and 1.5 tablespoons of flax oil. The participants ate each of the diets for 6 weeks, in random order, with a one-week break in between.
People who consumed walnuts and walnut oil not only lowered their LDL (bad) cholesterol, but also had significant reductions in blood pressure and levels of the inflammatory marker C-reaction protein. Most remarkably, participants also had striking improvements in their blood pressure reaction to stressful situations, such as giving a speech or having one of their feet plunged into ice-cold water for 2 minutes (stressors often used in studies).
“This is the first study to show that walnuts and walnut oil reduce blood pressure during stress,” study author Dr. Sheila West, associate professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State, reported in a statement. The calming effect of walnuts could play a role in keeping arteries healthy, Dr. West added. “People who show an exaggerated biological response to stress are at higher risk for heart disease.”
Scientists also report that walnuts fight a dangerous cluster of disorders called metabolic syndrome—or can even help reverse it. About one in 4 American adults meet criteria for this syndrome, defined as having at least 3 of these conditions: a large waistline, high triglycerides, low HDL (good) cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high fasting blood sugar. Metabolic syndrome triples risk for heart attack and quintuples it for type 2 diabetes.
In a study of 1,224 older adults at high risk for heart disease, those who had metabolic syndrome were 70 percent more likely to reverse it if they ate a daily serving of mixed nuts (50 percent walnuts, 25 percent almonds, and 25 hazelnuts. And here’s yet another reason to go nuts: They protect brain health. In a major study published in New England Journal of Medicine, people who nibbled an ounce of nuts daily—including walnuts—as part of a Mediterranean diet, slashed stroke risk by a whopping 46 percent.
Now, whenever someone tells me that I’m “nuts”, I just thank them. In fact we are all going nuts in the Amen household! As you will see in this week’s newsletter, we add small amounts of nuts to many of our daily meals and snacks.