When it comes to nutritional content, walnuts are king of the nut world.
Walnuts have twice the amount of antioxidants found in other nuts, such as almonds, pecans and pistachios, according to a recent report by University of Scranton researchers that was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society. How many walnuts should you eat daily to reap the benefits? Consider eating four to eight walnuts (approximately 1.5 ounces) daily in cereals, salads and yogurt -- or by themselves, as a snack. Surprisingly, walnuts are not fattening... and provide many health benefits...
Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation in the body. They also contain the minerals manganese and copper, both of which play key roles in the body’s antioxidant network.
In addition, these tasty nuts contain gamma-tocopherol, a component of vitamin E that provides antioxidant protection, as well as the amino acid l-arginine, which improves circulation. Walnuts contain the phytonutrient ellagic acid, which helps protect against cancer-causing free radical damage. Walnuts also are a source of the sleep hormone melatonin. The amount is too small to promote sleep, but the melatonin in walnuts provides additional antioxidant activity.
Several studies have shown that the consumption of walnuts reduces the risk of coronary artery disease. One study found that a walnut-rich diet lowered levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation, which is strongly associated with atherosclerosis and heart disease. Walnuts not only increase levels of omega-3 fatty acids but also decrease the adhesion of cholesterol to the lining of the arteries.
A study conducted at the Lipid Clinic at the Endocrinology and Nutrition Service, Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques in Barcelona, Spain, showed that a walnut-rich diet reduced total cholesterol by 4.4% and LDL (bad) cholesterol by 6.4%.
Other studies have found that walnuts significantly increase the elasticity of the arteries, which is a marker for healthy blood vessels. The Food and Drug Administration allows walnuts to carry the health claim that "eating 1.5 ounces of walnuts per day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk for heart disease."
Mark A. Stengler, NMD,is a naturopathic medical doctor and leading authority on the practice of alternative and integrated medicine. Dr. Stengler is author of the Bottom Line Natural Healing newsletter, author of The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies (Bottom Line Books), founder and medical director of the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine in Encinitas, California, and adjunct associate clinical professor at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon. www.DrStengler.com