Walnuts, the crunchiest and the toastiest of all nuts not just taste great, but also come loaded with essential nutrients and heart-healthy fats. Often eaten as a snack, chopped walnuts are also added to sweets, breakfast cereals, baked products, soups, pasta and salads to enhance their flavour.
Shedding some light on the origin of walnuts, these nuts are native to Central Asia and the Mediterranean region. Its botanical name Juglans is derived from the Roman word – ‘Jovis glans’, which means Jupiter’s nut or nut of the gods!
Let us now have a look at the nutrition profile of these wonder nuts. 30 gram serving of walnuts and it will contain the following proportion of nutrients:
Fats: 18.5 grams
Calories: 185 kcal
Carbohydrates: 3.9 grams
Protein: 4.3 grams
Sugar: 0.7 grams
Fibre: 1.9 grams
Fats: Fat is the major component of Walnuts – 65%, making them calorie-rich and energy-dense food. The fats are largely monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids and omega-3 fats (linoleic acid), which are all heart-healthy fats. They also contain a good percentage of omega 3-fat ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). ALA makes up 8-14% of the total fat and has been linked to various health benefits such as a reduction in inflammation, improvement in memory and anti-ageing.
Vitamins and minerals: Walnuts contain several vitamins and minerals such as:
Copper – Beneficial for bone health, prevents osteoporosis
Folic acid or Folate or vitamin B9 – Essential during pregnancy, reduces the risk of defects of the central nervous system in unborn babies
Phosphorus – Vital for cell growth and releasing potential energy contained in the cells
Vitamin B6 – Strengthens the immune system and improves nerve health
Manganese – Aids in the absorption of calcium into the bone
Vitamin E – promotes eye health and supports the immune system
Iron – An important component of haemoglobin, help transport oxygen in the body
Zinc – Aids growth and digestion
Great for heart: Walnuts are rich in monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, which when eaten in moderation, help lower LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) or bad cholesterol. These types of fats are known to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. They also cut the risk of plaque build-up, thereby improving the functioning of blood vessels. When combined with healthy lifestyle habits, walnuts can protect one from heart diseases.
Lowers risk of cancer: Walnuts are a rich source of bioactive plant compounds such as Ellagic acid, Catechin, Melatonin and Phytic acid, which are concentrated in the brown skin. Regular consumption of walnuts lowers the risk of developing cancer in colon, breast, prostate and kidney tissue.
Makes bones stronger: Walnuts contain significant amounts of copper that help reduce the risk of osteoporosis, a condition where bones become weak and susceptible to fractures. Lack of copper in the body can cause issues pertaining to bones such as joint dysfunction. Copper also plays an important role in maintaining the structural components of the body – collagen and elastin. Besides copper, walnuts are a good source of manganese as well. It helps bones absorb calcium.
Improvement in brain functions: Studies reveal that eating walnuts is linked to improvement in memory. It can help with age-related impairment in brain function and depression. These effects of walnuts are attributed to its high antioxidants content.
Satiating properties: Walnuts have greater satiating properties. After consuming a walnut-containing diet, an individual may experience a feeling of fullness and decreased appetite.
Healthy gut microbiota: Walnuts are beneficial for gastrointestinal microbiota. A healthy gut microbiota helps strengthen immunity and defend against various illnesses.
Walnuts are the best gifts that nature has bestowed on us. When included in daily diet (not more than 14 half-walnut pieces) alongside a good exercise regime, one can experience a notable difference in mental and physical health.
(The writer is adviser of integrative lifestyle and nutrition at Purenutrition.in)