Walnuts belong to the tree nut family, along with Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts and pistachios. Each has its own unique nutritional profile. It’s believed that the walnut tree dates as far back as 700 B.C. Walnuts were considered foods for the gods during the early Roman times, and were named after Jupiter – hence the scientific name Juglans regia.
The “English” walnut that everyone is familiar with today is native to India and regions around the Caspian Sea, and was named for the English merchants that carried it for trade around the world. Another variety, the black walnut, is native to North America, in the Appalachian region and central Mississippi valley.1 Eating just one ounce of walnuts a day ( about seven shelled walnuts) may be all it takes to take advantage of their beneficial properties. But what exactly are walnuts good for?
THE 7 BEST BENEFITS OF WALNUTS
Cancer-fighting properties — Walnuts may help reduce not only the risk of prostate cancer, but breast cancer as well.
Heart health — Walnuts contain the amino acid l-arginine, which offers multiple vascular benefits to people with heart disease, or those who have increased risk for heart disease due to multiple cardiac risk factors.
Rare and powerful antioxidants — Antioxidants are crucial to your health, as they are believed to help control how fast you age by combating free radicals, which are at the heart of age-related deterioration. Walnuts contain several unique and powerful antioxidants that are available in only a few commonly eaten foods. This includes the quinone juglone, the tannin tellimagrandin, and the flavonol morin.8
Weight control — Adding walnuts to your diet can help you to maintain your ideal weight over time. In one review of 31 trials, those whose diets included extra nuts or nuts substituted for other foods lost about 1.4 extra pounds and half an inch from their waists.12 Eating walnuts is also associated with increased satiety after just three days.13
Improved reproductive health in men — One of the lesser-known benefits of walnuts is their impact on male fertility. Among men who consume a Western-style diet, adding 75 grams (a bit over one-half cup) of walnuts daily significantly improved sperm quality, including vitality, motility, and morphology.14
Brain health — Walnuts contain a number of neuroprotective compounds, including vitamin E, folate, melatonin, omega-3 fats and antioxidants. Research shows walnut consumption may support brain health, including increasing inferential reasoning in young adults.
Diabetes — The beneficial dietary fat in walnuts has been shown to improve metabolic parameters in people with Type 2 diabetes. Overweight adults with Type 2 diabetes who ate one-quarter cup of walnuts daily had significant reductions in fasting insulin levels compared to those who did not, and the benefit was achieved in the first three months.