Walnuts – The Healthiest Nut for Your Heart

You may have avoided eating nuts for fear of putting on weight, but a new scientific study gives walnuts a strong recommendation as they have a combination of more healthful antioxidants and higher quality antioxidants than any other nut.

A handful of walnuts contains almost twice as much antioxidants as an equivalent amount of any other popular nut such as peanuts or almonds. Also, nuts in general have an unusual combination of nutritional benefits as they contain plenty of high-quality protein that can substitute for meat; vitamins and minerals; dietary fiber; and are dairy- and gluten-free.

Years of research by scientists worldwide link regular consumption of small amounts of nuts or peanut butter with decreased risk of heart disease, certain kinds of cancer, gallstones, Type 2 diabetes, and other health problems.

The researchers compared both the amount and quality of antioxidants found in nine different nuts: walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias, and pecans.

Walnuts not only had the highest levels of antioxidants but also the highest potency, of antioxidants. They are 2-15 times as potent as vitamin E, renowned for its powerful antioxidant effects that protect the body against damaging natural chemicals involved in causing disease.

Another reason that walnuts are so healthy is that are eaten raw, unlike other nuts which are heated which generally reduces the quality of the antioxidants, so you get the full effectiveness of those antioxidants.

If it is the dietary aspect that has kept you from eating nuts, and they are it is true high in fat and calories, but nuts contain healthful polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats rather than artery-clogging saturated fat. As for the calories, eating nuts does not appear to cause weight gain and even makes people feel full and less likely to overeat. In a 2009 U. S. study, nut consumption was associated with a significantly lower risk of weight gain and obesity.

What’s the maximum healthy snack size to get your daily dose of antioxidants? Apparently it is seven, and think of the extra calories you will expend in cracking the shells!

Get nut cracking to improve your motor skills


My memories of Christmas always include struggling with the nutcracker and sending shards of shells flying across the room. Brazil nuts were the most intractable, but I liked their taste, whereas walnuts were hard work and I wasn’t very keen on their slight oiliness – though that may have been because they had been sitting in the bowl too long.

Now however I might have to change my mind as some new research shows that adding a moderate, but not high, amount of walnuts to an otherwise healthy diet may help the over 50′s to perform better at tasks that require motor and behavioural skills. Walnuts contain polyphenols, of which I have spoken in praise before, as well as other antioxidants and essential fatty acids.

The study appeared recently in the British Journal of Nutrition and they were looking at the fact that as we age our brain undergoes a number of changes that can result in altered or impaired functioning. Partly this is due to the fact that the ability of the connections between neurons to change in strength and function is lessened, and that there is also increased oxidative damage to our neural tissue.

The trial was done on rats as they apparently have similar brain makeup to ours – which gives me food for thought about some of my acquaintances, but never mind – and they were put on a diet which had either 2, 6 or 9 percent walnuts in it and a trial group that got no walnuts at all. The study found that in the older rats, the diets containing 2 or 6 percent walnuts were able to improve age-related motor and cognitive shortfalls, while the 9 percent walnut diet impaired reference memory.

In human terms, this means that if you eat 7 to 9 walnuts, a day then you could be positively affecting your cognitive and your motor skills, but no more than that or your memory might be affected. Another benefit is that you will also be providing yourself with exercise as you attempt to crack the nuts, in the shell is fresher, but watch out for those flying shells!

Lets hear it for nuts!

This is another natural food that can get a bad press. They are shunned because people – particularly those on a diet – believe that they are bad for you as they are high in natural fats and oils, but this is far from being the case. Raw, not processed or salted, nuts can help fight depression, heart disease and bad cholesterol. That last one may be a bit of a shock, but although it is true that nuts in general contain as much as 80 per cent fat, but there are good fats and bad ones. The type of fat found in nuts is unsaturated fat – specifically monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat and both of these unsaturated fats are known for their ability to reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also called “bad” cholesterol, when consumed in moderation.

A few months ago in the USA, a survey examined and reported on the diets of more than 31,000 Seventh Day Adventists – chosen for the similarity of their lifestyle choices – and it was found tha t those who ate nuts more than four times per week experienced 51% fewer heart attacks compared to those who ate nuts less than once per week.

If you want to stick to the most healthy nuts around, these are the top 5 to go for:

1 Pistachios can produce a 10 point drop in your triglycerides and a 16 point decline in your LDL (bad) cholesterol, according to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

2 Walnuts Contains omega 3s which may help ward off depression and heart attack, according to Harvard research. Maybe you should stuff those sardines with lemon and walnuts for extra benefit!

3 Brazil nuts contain selenium, a mineral linked to prostate cancer protection, according to scientists at the University of Arizona.

4 Pecans have the most antioxidants of any nut. Could help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

5 Hazelnuts a handful daily boosts HDL (good) cholesterol levels by 12 percent, according to a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.