Walnuts are round edible seeds from trees that belong to the Juglans genus, particularly the walnut tree. The kernels are encased in a brown husk that is inedible and must be cracked open to obtain the fruit and seed within. Known as ‘brain foods’ mostly because of the way the surface looks. These components make walnuts antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. 1 or 2 walnuts per day per individual is the recommendation. Walnuts enhance the cardiovascular system and improve HDL levels. They also improve neurological functions and reduce chances of epilepsy. Because walnuts contain healthy fats and are known for its wholesomeness, they are supposed to be an excellent substitute for healthy snacking and controls your lifestyle-related health conditions. Walnuts are also known for controlling diabetes, preventing cancer, reducing inflammation in the body, improving your skin's health, regulating sleep and boosting your mood. It also has astringent and antioxidant properties.
Health Benefits Of Consuming Walnuts By Dr Shunmukha Priya, Scientific Research Officer, Possible
The benefits of eating walnuts include the following
- Fatty Acids: The presence of fatty acids in walnuts decrease harmful cholesterol and triglycerides level. This also helps lower fasting blood sugar if had empty stomach in the morning, lowering chances of diabetes. Walnuts are a good source of protein. They contain the right amount of omega-3 fatty acids, iron, Vit B6, copper, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese.
- Reduces Inflammation: Plant compounds and nutrients in walnuts may help decrease inflammation, responsible for many chronic diseases. Polyphenols called ellagitannins, magnesium and the amino acid arginine are the plant compounds and nutrients present in walnuts to reduce inflammation.
- Glowing Skin: Vitamin E-content, protects the skin from free radicals. B-complex vitamins such as B-6, folate, riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid are great for skin care. Like health benefits, when consumed in excess walnuts can lead to side effects.
- Improves Lipid Profile and heart health: A walnut-enriched diet can decrease total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and reduce blood pressure, inflammation, and plaque formation.
- Bone Health: Copper and magnesium in walnuts help bone formation prevent and manage osteoporosis, a condition where the bone density becomes lesser and thinner, making it prone to fracture.
- Supports healthy Aging: Walnuts contain essential fibres, vitamins, minerals, fats and many plants compounds that may help support good physical functioning as you age.
- Weight Management: Walnuts also help to reduce stress and inflammation. Those who eat walnuts in moderate quantity is found to have better weight management.
Let us know more about the side effects of consuming walnuts
Side Effects of Walnuts By Pooja Thacker, Chief Dietician, Bhatia Hospital Mumbai
- Can Cause Allergies: Walnuts can cause allergic reactions like hives and rashes and in some cases, to cause difficulty in breathing, nausea, nasal congestion, itching of the mouth, throat or the eyes.
- Can Cause Weight Gain: While consuming walnuts, people need to keep in mind that though it is a wholesome food, it is high in calories. So, it is advisable to have it in moderation.
- Can Cause Digestive Issues: The fibre in the nuts may cause gastrointestinal issues if consumed in excess, bloating, stomach pain, and diarrhoea.
- Reduces mineral absorption: Walnuts are high in phytic acid. Phytic acid hinders the absorption of minerals like iron and zinc.
- Can Aggravate Ulcers: Walnuts are high in fibre, and excessive intake of fibre can aggravate ulcers in susceptible individuals
However, despite offering outstanding health benefits, there are myths and misconceptions about walnuts perpetuated over time. Nazanin Husein, Founder of Freedom Wellness Management and an eminent Dietitian dispel most common myths about walnuts and separate facts from fiction.
- MYTH: Walnuts should not be consumed in summer.
- Fact: Walnuts must be consumed all year round for those essential omega-3 fatty acids and a healthy mix of vitamins and minerals. Including these golden delights in your daily diet may help you stay fuelled, focused and energized. So, next time you want to overcome the 4 PM energy dive on a hot summer day, reach out for walnuts. While walnuts are satisfying and delightful on their own, you can pair them with seasonal foods to make your meals more wholesome. For healthy summer meals replace the croutons in the salad with walnuts, add walnuts to your smoothies, sprinkle on yoghurt, cereal, pancakes and top your ice-cream or any fresh fruit with walnuts for a refreshing summer dessert.
- MYTH: Consuming 1-2 walnuts is enough for the day.
- Fact: It is advised to consume at least seven walnuts (12-14 halves), which equals a handful or 28 grams to derive maximum benefits from this superfood. A handful of walnuts provide a combination of critical nutrients, including 2.5 grams of alpha-linolenic acid. The plant-based form of omega-3, which is more than five times the amount found in the next highest nut along with four grams of protein and two grams of fibre. While some people prefer to kick off their mornings with walnuts, you can eat them any time of the day. Apart from being a dynamic nut packed with nutrients and health benefits, walnuts also elevate your dishes' taste and texture.
- MYTH: Consumption of walnuts can lead to a rise in cholesterol levels
- Fact: Walnuts may help in lowering harmful LDL cholesterol and raising beneficial HDL cholesterol levels. Research has found that omega-3 fatty acids found in foods such as walnuts may decrease the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) in those with high cholesterol. Walnuts may also be beneficial in reducing blood pressure and regulating blood glucose levels. Eating walnuts as part of a healthy diet may reduce your risk of both heart disease and stroke.
- MYTH: Walnuts are fattening and cause weight gain
- Fact: There is no adverse effect of walnuts on body weight and body composition. Walnuts may play a role in achieving ideal body weight when consumed as part of an overall healthy diet. Rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fats, walnuts may promote satiety and help in appetite control- critical components in maintaining a healthy weight.
- MYTH: Soaked walnuts are better than raw walnuts.
- Fact: Many people in India believe consuming soaked walnuts are more beneficial than raw walnuts. Not true. If you soak the walnuts, you must also drink the water to get as part of the nutrients end up in the water. Have them raw, roasted, or ground them in your meals, the nutrient profile of walnuts stays the same.
Precautions to be taken before consuming walnuts by Rohit Shelatkar, Fitness & Nutrition Expert, VP at Vitabiotics
- If one has diarrhoea and other digestive problems after eating walnuts, it may be time to avoid this nut. To avert these side effects, prevent overeating walnuts if you already have had foods rich in fibre.
- Walnuts are high in calories. It is advisable to eat them sparingly. One can gain weight by consuming more. One should consume walnuts in moderation and get the good benefits of the nut.
Conclusion: So, eat walnuts guilt-free every day. Have them raw, sprinkle on your salads or add in your favourite recipes to make them a part of your daily diet for optimum health. Regular consumption of walnuts may reduce the risk of heart disease, improve brain health and prevent other inflammatory disorders. Avoid excessive consumption of walnuts to avoid the side effects. Please include them in the diet in various forms.
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