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Healthy Benefits of Walnuts & How They Help in Weight Loss

Medically reviewed by Dr. Shunmukha Priya, Ph.D. in Food Science and Nutrition

Walnuts aka in Hindi as akhrot is a powerhouse of nutrition. A walnut is basically a single-seeded stone fruit that is derived from any tree of the genus Juglans.

Mimicking the human brain, this nut is a small wonder that is believed to help promote the development of several neuron-transmitters within the brain.

However, that is not all. This wonder nut is also a great source of healthy fats and fibre. But before we jump into the benefits of walnuts, let us give you some lesser-known facts about this amazing healthy seed.

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Walnuts Origin and Production

Originating in the Mediterranean region, a native from North American lands, Walnuts are now also grown in China, Iran and in the states of California and Arizona. In India, they are majorly found growing in the Himalayan regions and also in Sikkim and Darjeeling.

benefits of walnuts

Its commercial farming is carried in Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand.

China is the leading producer of walnuts, in the year 2017, the country produced 41% of the total walnut production in the world.[1]

Nutritional Benefits of Walnuts

The nutritional breakdown of a 100 gms of Walnuts [2]

  • Total Fat – 65 grams
  • Total Carbohydrate- 14 grams
  • Dietary Fiber – 6.7 grams
  • Sugar – 2.6 grams
  • Protein – 15 grams
  • Sodium- 2 milligrams
  • Iron- 2.91 milligrams
  • Potassium- 441 milligrams
  • Calcium -98 milligrams

Besides these there are also several vitamin benefits of walnuts, particularly being a good source of B6 (Pyridoxine). 

Termed as the healthiest nut by BBC health, the walnut nutrition data also reveals them as a very good source of good fats. With a saturated fat percentage of just 10%, walnuts contain almost 76% of Polyunsaturated fats and 14% of Monounsaturated fats.

Other Nutritional Facts about Walnuts

  • The glycemic index of walnuts is about 15 that includes them in the list of low glycemic foods. 
  • Walnuts are also natural sources of manganese, contributing to almost half of your daily needs. 
  • They are the only nuts that serve as a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids.

7 Major Health Benefits of Walnuts

Our health experts say that including walnuts as a daily part of your meals plan can help you maintain a nutritious diet. Here are 7 major health benefits of walnuts that might assure you so!

1. Walnuts keep the heart healthy

Walnuts contain high content of mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids that is an important nutrition source for heart health. These fatty acids lower the bad cholesterol (LDL) level in the body.

walnut for healthy heart

A higher level of LDL usually builds up in the heart arteries and even clog them up. This later leads to heart pain.

Studies show that acute consumption of walnuts and its several components can benefit endothelial function. The study also supports that consuming whole walnuts shows novel effects on reverse cholesterol transport. [3]

Moreover, the omega-3 in walnuts is a direct contributor to reducing heart diseases risks. The Omega-3 in plants as well as in walnuts are known as ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), that is associated with moderately lower risks of cardiovascular diseases. [4]

2. Walnuts maintain the gut health

Recent studies confirm that including walnuts daily as a part of diet can increase the essential bacteria in the gut and hence, improves gut health altogether.

To maintain proper gut health, your body needs to have the bacteria that promote good health. The contribution of diet is one of the main driving factors in building the gut microbiota over the entire lifetime of a host.

walnut for gut health

Hence, maintaining a proper diet that includes foods like Walnuts to maintain gut health is the most significant step in having a healthy gut.

A research carried out among 42 participants, between the ages of 30 and 65–who were overweight, were put into an American diet for two weeks.

After this, the participants were assigned to three random diets where walnuts or vegetable oils replaced saturated fat. The participants followed each diet for six weeks.

The result was, the ones with a walnut diet showed a higher number of gut bacteria proving to have better gut health.[5]

3. Walnut benefits for brain

As mentioned earlier, walnuts are found to be quite effective in supporting brain health. Walnuts have a high concentration of DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) which is a type of Omega-3 acid.

Some studies show that DHA promotes brain health in infants and even improves cognition in adult brains. That is why walnuts are also recommended for people with age-related memory declining issues.

The ALA in walnuts along with its high content of polyphenols are considered as crucial brain nutrients. These fight against oxidative stress in the brain and also reduces inflammation.

walnut for healthy brain

There was also a study that supported – mothers with proper DHA content produce smarter kids.

Another study by the University of New Mexico showed an impact of walnut consumption on mood in young adults. The nut supplementation showed declination of depression and improvement in mood in the subjects.[6

Moreover, the structure of walnut inside the shell has an uncanny similarity with the folds and wrinkles of a human brain. No wonder they are nicknamed as the brain foods!

4. Help the male reproductive system

While the walnuts are a miracle for all of us in several ways, there are also many surprising benefits of it for men. A study suggests that eating walnuts daily can improve sperm health.

Research among subjects belonging to the western world with a declining sperm count due to the modern-day pollution and stress, showed healthier fertility signs after including walnuts in their diet.

 The researchers divided 119 healthy men within the age group of 18 to 35, into two groups. One group was given 60 grams of walnuts in their normal diet and the other group had no changes in their diet.

The result showed the group that had nuts in their diet had a 14% higher sperm count and a 4% higher sperm vitality. The experts of the study revealed that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and Vitamin B can improve fertility in men. [7] and walnuts contain most of these nutrients.

Including walnuts in a regular diet also helps in keeping up with the required nutrition data that ultimately affect fertility too.

5. Promotes weight loss

If you have been snacking chips or craving for chips, here is your chance to replace the loss with a much nutritious snack–walnut. Their high content of Omega-3 fatty acids is linked to decreasing obesity and diabetes.

One of the major misconceptions regarding walnuts and their role in weight loss is that these nuts are dense in calories. However, studies have reported that the energy absorbed from these nuts are lower.

walnut for weight loss

Even though these nuts contain fat, they are mostly good fats that help in lowering bad cholesterol. The other role of walnuts in weight loss is that they are high in dietary fibre that makes you full quickly and hence lets you eat less.

A study published funded by California Walnut Commission, even proved that walnuts can alter the way brains view foods and hence impact their appetite. 

 The study was held among 10 obese people, who were given to either drink a walnut smoothie once a day for five days consecutive days or a placebo smoothie identical in taste and calorie content, separated by a washout period of one month. The results showed that walnut consumption reduced feelings of hunger and appetite. This explains that walnut consumption may have increased the cognitive control of appetite in these patients. [8]

 If you think just chewing the walnuts can be boring, here’s a fun way to twist things up with a delicious and healthy Cinnamon Walnut Smoothie recipe.

6. Walnut benefits for hair

The benefits of Walnuts are not just for heart or gut but extend upto hair. Walnuts are great for hair growth. The selenium and Vitamin B7 in walnuts help in reducing hair fall.

Not just that, applying walnut oil in hair benefits by making the hair look healthy and glossy. The oil is also found to be associated with dandruff decline.

You must know that fatty acids are crucial for hair growth, they also keep the skin moisturized. Hence, lack of these fats can cause dandruff.

With a diet supplement of walnut, bad fats are replaced by good fats that reduce the level of hair fall. 

7. Manage Type 2 Diabetes

Walnuts contain rich amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and even phytosterols that are believed to delay type-2 diabetes. [9] Besides their positive impacts on weight management, consuming walnuts can help in reducing the blood sugar level.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids affect the insulin sensitivity in the blood hence reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. 

 In a study of 100 people with diabetes mellitus, two groups were formed. One group was given walnut oil for three months while the other group did not undergo any interventions. Before the experiment, the fasting blood sugar of both groups was photographed.

After the experiment, the group with walnuts in their diet showed a significant decrease in the fasting blood sugar level compared to the other group.

However, the two groups were not significantly different in their body weight. Hence, including walnuts in the diet may affect the glucose level in type 2 diabetic patients. [10]

Some of the best healthy foods are usually the ones that are not advertised and are rarely known. Walnuts, although remains underrated, are one of the healthiest food sources that mankind has known since forever.

So, for your next diet plan, go walnuts and enjoy this sweet mixture of taste and nutrition.

 FAQs 

1. How many walnuts should you eat in a day?

A. A handful of walnuts can help you gain the essential nutrients for your body, however, we tend to skip or forget them in between our hectic schedules. To make it a habit, you can have 4 – 5 walnuts a day!

2. What is the best time to eat walnuts?

A. Our experts say that you can add walnuts in your everyday breakfast. Eating them in the morning shows greater results in regulating the blood pressure. However, you can munch them in between your work hours too!

3. What are the side effects of eating walnuts?

A. While the wonder nuts are blessed with the most amazing nutrients, there may be a few side-effects that you can watch out for! If consumed in excess, the dietary fibre in them may cause gastrointestinal issues, diarrhoea etc.

As nuts are known to cause allergies, some people may face allergic reactions like anaphylaxis such as skin rashes, nausea, vomiting, or difficulty breathing due to these nuts. If you face any such kind of issue, it is advisory to consult a doctor. 

Moreover, eating walnuts in excess can also contribute to weight gain. To combat this, you can include walnuts in your recipes rather than just having the nuts by themselves. This will let you maintain a balance of walnuts in your diet,

3. Are walnuts good for diabetics?

A. Walnuts are found to be helpful in type 2 diabetes patients. The nuts can build a resistance for insulin hence it helps in maintaining a low blood sugar level, when you follow a diet suitable for diabetes and a healthy lifestyle.