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Eat Walnuts for Nutritious Snacking and Long-term Health

  • 4 min read

Health begins with a healthy diet, and it requires a consistent effort to improve or maintain. While the best way to get all the nutrients that are important for your overall health is by enjoying a wide range of nutritious foods it still easy to miss out on the essentials. Even though a recommended daily serving of Omega-3 ALA is only 1.1-1.6 grams up to 68% of adults and 95% of children in America are deficient according to one study.[1] Omega-3 Alpha-Linoleic Acid (ALA) is an often overlooked essential fatty acid which is speculated to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease by maintaining normal heart function. While some may opt for alternatives, walnuts are an excellent source of Omega-3 ALA, containing 2.5g per 28g serving.


The beauty of walnuts is their versatility as an ingredient in a more significant meal and as a snack between meals. Though eating a handful of walnuts isn’t a catch-all solution to a bad diet or eating pattern it’s still a good start. According to a survey conducted by the USDA, 24% of an American Adult’s diet in 2007-2008 was from snacking.[2] Snacking can be a mixed bag, but having a healthy diet pattern means balancing the fulfillment of our needs and wants. A follow-up study noted that 5 of the 12 snacking patterns analyzed (varied snacks, vegetables, crackers, other grains, and whole fruits) were associated with better diets.[3] They also found that snacking was related to better diet quality than not at all.

Research studies have found the following health benefits associated with regularly eating walnuts:

  1. Lower Cholesterol Levels
  2. Reduction in Inflammation
  3. Improving Heart Function
  4. Lowered Risk for Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)

Q: Can eating walnuts reduce bad cholesterol? 

A: Though the connection is unclear it is commonly accepted that monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats lower bad cholesterol. To explore this connection a study published in Circulation(2021) noted that several randomized controlled trials (RCT’s) suggested that diets that included nuts showed a consistent cholesterol-lowering effect[4]. Then a 2-year clinical trial was conducted to measure the impact of daily doses of walnuts in healthy elderly individuals. Their findings support the belief that routinely eating walnuts has great potential as a part of a multicomponent dietary intervention or pattern.[5]

Q: How do ALA-rich walnuts reduce inflammation?

A: Inflammation reduction is likely due to the nutritional content of walnuts and the benefits of polyunsaturated fatty acids and ALA. A prior study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (2020) examined the changes to inflammatory biomarkers following a routine of daily walnut consumption for 2-years[6]. The diligent effort of the researchers and participants led to a significant reduction in concentrations of 6 of 10 biomarkers examined.[7]

Q: What are the benefits of eating walnuts?

A: Consistency is the key to progress in health objectives, when looking specifically at walnuts they show benefits towards body composition. A study published in Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases (2021) conducted a 25-year investigation into the relationship between cardiovascular (CVD) risk factors in young adults who regularly ate walnuts and those who did not[8]. Along with a positive association between walnut consumption and better heart function, researchers found that walnut consumers tended to have smaller waists, blood pressure, and higher diet quality[9]. Researchers also noted that people who ate walnuts tended to be more physically active and tended to have more diverse diets[10].

Q: Can Walnuts reduce the risk of heart disease?

A: Likely due to their nutritional benefits, walnuts and nuts are associated with lower blood pressure and improving how the heart fills with blood. A follow-up publication in Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases(2022) found that eating walnuts and other nuts is generally associated with better CVD risk factors and diet quality alignment with the 2020-2025 US Dietary Guidelines.[11]

Overall, health requires a multifaceted approach and consistent effort to create lasting impacts. Small steps in restructuring or reinforcing routines lead to great changes and benefits for comprehensive health. As impactful as walnuts may be, they are only a small part of what should be an all-encompassing plan for one’s specific nutritional and physical goals. Even so, it is these small repeatable efforts that lead to greater sustainable results. Whether walnuts are your first or last step, or maybe even a step in between, it is paramount to go at your own pace, by fulfilling your own needs.

 

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Disclaimer: This blog is meant purely for educational reasons and should not be taken as advice, if you have further questions regarding a dietary pattern or nutritional value it is best to consult your doctor. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

  

[1] Murphy RA, Devarshi PP, Ekimura S, et al Long-chain omega-3 fatty acid serum concentrations across life stages in the USA: an analysis of NHANES 2011–2012BMJ Open 2021;11:e043301. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-043301 [2] U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, Food Surveys Research Group. 2011. Snacking Patterns of U.S. Adults: What We Eat In America, NHANES 2007-2008. Food Surveys Research Group Dietary Data Brief No. 4. Available at: http://ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=19476. [3] Nicklas TA, O’Niel CE, Fulgoni VL, Snacking Paterns, Diet Quality, and Cardivascular Risk Factors in Adults. BMC Public Health.2014, 14:388, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/14/388, Accessed 10/20/2022   [4] Rajaram S, Cofan M, Sala-Vila A, Haddad E, Serra M, Bitok E, Roth I, Freitas-Simoes TM, Kaur A, Valls-Pedret C, Domenech M, Oda K, Corella D, Sabate J, Ros E. Effects of walnut consumption for 2 years on blood lipids and lipoprotein subclasses among healthy elders: Findings from the Walnuts and Healthy Aging (WAHA) randomized controlled trial. Circulation. 2021;144:00–00. DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.121.054051. [5] ibid. [6] Cofán M, Rajaram S, Sala-Vila A, et al. Effects of 2-Year Walnut-Supplemented Diet on Inflammatory Biomarkers. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2020 Nov, 76 (19) 2282–2284. [7] ibid [8] Steffen LM, Yi SY, Duprez D, Zhou X, Shikany JM, Jacobs Jr DR, Walnut Consumption and Cardiac Phenotypes: the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. 2021; 31(1): 95-101 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.numecd.2020.09.001. [9]ibid [10] ibid [11] Steffen LM, Yi SY,  Zhou X, Shikany JM, Jacobs Jr DR. Association of Nut Consumption with CVD Risk Factors in Young to Middle-Aged Adults: The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study. 2022; 32: 2321-2329, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.numecd.2022.07.013.

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