Can you guess which food has the most beneficial effects for your health? According to a report presented at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, the crown goes to walnuts. Walnuts have the combination of more healthful antioxidants and higher quality antioxidants than any other nuts, and we already know most nuts are great for health.
The benefits of eating nuts are numerous, but here are some scientific findings published recent years:
- Consuming more nuts, in general, appears to improve cholesterol levels. This is because unsaturated fatty acids in nuts modify blood lipoprotein levels and lower cholesterol levels.
- Because of the high content of omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts and walnut oil lower blood pressure and improve reactions to stress.
- Plant-based omega-3 fatty acids which are abundant in nuts – especially walnuts – seem to protect bone health.
- Combining walnuts with high-fat meals helps prevent short-term damage of arteries. Eating a high-fat meal triggers an inflammatory reaction, but walnut oils decrease the sudden onset of inflammation and oxidation in the arteries.
- Omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts may prevent breast cancer and slow prostate tumors.
- Pecans contain different forms of the antioxidant vitamin E (tocopherols) and lower bad cholesterol levels significantly.
In short, nuts, especially walnuts and pecans, are one of the best foods for your health. So why are people not eating more nuts? According to one study, people are getting only 8% of daily antioxidants from the nut family.
One reason is that nuts are, in general, very high in fat and many people believe that eating nuts will make them gain weight. Sure, you will gain weight if you eat 3,000 calories worth of walnuts every day, but it seems that eating nuts makes people satisfy their hunger much quicker than eating other types of fatty foods. Furthermore, they contain very healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, of which most of people are not getting enough. Seven whole walnuts will give you the daily requirements of these antioxidants.
Here are a few more suggestions:
Many people love to eat salted and roasted nuts. Unfortunately, compared to raw nuts, they are much less potent, since the process of roasting squeezes out the oils, and also oxidizes the oils. Besides, the amount of salt used tends to be very high and may raise blood pressure instead of lowering it. Try to eat raw walnuts and pecans. They taste much better than other nuts in raw form. If you still don’t like the raw taste, mix raw walnuts and pecans with a bit of salted and roasted cashews, or a small amount of dried fruits. You can also add walnuts to your salad – it tastes great.
It is better to buy walnuts in shells. Avoid them crushed, since nuts are exposed to the oxygen in the air, and oxidize very quickly. It is kind of fun to crack nuts, but if you don’t have the patience, get a small bag of walnuts or pecans which contains half-opened nuts. You should keep them refrigerated.
Although peanuts also have some benefits, you may want to avoid them as they may cause allergic reactions due to peanut fungus. By the way, peanuts are not really nuts – they are legumes which grow underground, rather than on trees.
Avoid old nuts. If they are still in the shell, they may be consumed in about a year, but once opened get rancid within a couple of months. Not only do they lose their potency, they could be harmful for you. Yes, nuts are fresh foods, and eating them when they are fresh gives you far more benefits than when they are rotten!
Caution: Some people may experience very strong allergic reactions to nuts. If you have doubts, see your doctor.
Walnuts are top nut for heart-healthy antioxidants: American Chemical Society (2011, March)
Walnuts, walnut oil, improve reaction to stress. ScienceDaily: Penn State (2010, October)
Walnuts May Prevent Breast Cancer: American Association for Cancer Research (2009, April)
Walnuts slow prostate tumors in mice, study finds: University of California – Davis – Health System (2010, March)
Adding Walnuts To Good Diet May Help Older People Improve Motor And Behavioral Skill: USDA/Agricultural Research Service (2009, April)