April 23, 2015 Food & Nutrition
Nuts are a great way to compliment your diet. Full of fiber, rich in unsaturated fatty acids and a good source of antioxidants. Yet, few people take the full advantage of these small powerhouses. The average person in Europe and the US consumes only around 12 grams of nuts per day; and a large percentage of this comes from eating peanuts which are actually legumes.
The nut that surpasses all other nuts
Joe Vinson, PhD, chemistry professor from University of Scranton, analyzed different types of raw and roasted nuts. His study concluded that not only should we increase the consumption of nuts, but also that there is a nut that surpasses all its counterparts in terms of the health benefits.
According to Dr. Vinson’s research, walnuts are the champions amongst nuts. They rank better than pistachios, almonds, pecans, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts and macadamia nuts.
Vinson’s study, published in the journal Food and Function online, showed that walnuts have more antioxidant polyphenols and a higher antioxidant potency (the ability to stop oxidation of LDL or ‘bad cholesterol’) when compared to other nuts that were analyzed. Furthermore, antioxidants from walnuts are thought to be 15 times more potent than vitamin E, which is known as a strong antioxidant. Antioxidants destroy free radicals and in this way prevent cell changes that can lead to the development of serious disease (you can read more about the role of antioxidants in my previous article about the 9 amazing antioxidants for great health).
Here are some of the health benefits of eating walnuts:
- Walnuts have long been known to reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers. They are one of the best foods to prevent clogged arteries.
- They minimize the signs of aging and they are also one of the top 10 foods against wrinkles.
- They help with the brain function, which is interesting considering their brain-like shape.
- The antioxidant properties of walnuts help lower risk of chronic oxidative stress.
- The anti-inflammatory properties help lower risk of chronic inflammation.
- Walnuts are one of the top 20 foods to balance your hormones.
- Walnuts are one of the best foods to boost your mood.
How much walnuts to eat and how to eat them
One walnut provides you with a portion of healthy fats, proteins, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and vitamins B and C and makes for a perfect snack.
Dr. Vinson estimates that just 7 walnuts a day can give you the potential health benefits, so people don’t need to fear having to consume too large portions.
Walnuts are best consumed raw, research shows. Roasting, for example, reduces their effectiveness.
There are a lot of nutritional benefits of walnuts when consumed in whole form, including the skin. Researchers now know that approximately 90% of the antioxidants in walnuts are found in the skin. Some websites encourage you to remove the walnut skin—that outermost part of shelled walnuts because it can be slightly bitter, but it is recommended not to remove this antioxidant-rich part.
So why do people eat so little nuts?
Taking into consideration the wholesome benefits and potential nuts hold, it is surprising to see that only about 8% of the daily antioxidants in the average person’s diet come from nuts. Many still seem to be unaware how healthy nuts are and are worried about their fatty reputation. Dr. Vinson points out that fats from nuts are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats that are healthy and important for the body’s function. They mustn’t be mistaken for the unhealthy fats that clog the arteries and are connected with chronic diseases and weight gain.
Nonetheless, the portions of nuts you consume on a daily basis should remain small. As mentioned before, a handful of walnuts will provide you with the much needed nutrients and bio-active antioxidants and will protect your body against various conditions.
How to select and store walnuts
- When you purchase whole walnuts that have not been shelled choose the ones that feel heavy for their size. Make sure their shells are not be cracked or stained, as often this is a sign of mold developing on the nut.
- Shelled walnuts are usually available in prepackaged containers or in bulk bins. If you purchase them from the bulk section, make sure that the store has a good product turnover to ensure maximal freshness. Whether purchasing walnuts in bulk or in a packaged container avoid those that look wrinkled as they indicate old age. It’s also a good idea to smell the walnuts if you can to ensure that they are not rancid.
- Walnuts are high in polyunsaturated fat, and that makes them extremely perishable. Shelled walnuts should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, where they will keep for six months. You can also freeze them,where they will last for one year. Unshelled walnuts should preferably be stored in the refrigerator, although you can also keep them in a cool, dry, dark place where they will stay fresh for up to six months.
You can also find more information about the amazing health benefits of nuts and seeds, including delicious recipes, in my article below: