Walnuts are one of the most popular and versatile nuts in the world. They are the edible seeds of the walnut tree, which belongs to the genus Juglans and the family Juglandaceae. Walnuts are round, single-seeded stone fruits that are enclosed in a hard, brown shell and a green husk. They ripen between September and November in the northern hemisphere.
Walnuts have been consumed by humans for thousands of years, dating back to ancient Persia, where they were considered a symbol of royalty and fertility. They were also prized by the Greeks and Romans for their medicinal and culinary uses. Today, walnuts are widely cultivated and consumed in many countries, especially in China, the United States, Iran, Turkey, and Mexico.
Walnuts in India:
Kashmiri walnuts are a variety of walnuts that are cultivated in the Kashmir valley, which is situated in the Himalayan mountains. Kashmir is a major walnut-producing state in India and contributes to over 98% of the total walnut production in India. The Kashmiri walnut kernels are also exported to some of the major countries in the world, including the UK, UAE, France, and Germany.
Kashmiri walnuts are very famous for their excellent quality and mild-flavoured nuts that feature slight tan coloured kernels. They have a thin shell that is easy to crack and a high kernel-to-shell ratio. They also have a longer shelf life than other varieties of walnuts.
Beyond their culinary allure, these remarkable nuts offer a treasure trove of health benefits, making them a true nutritional powerhouse. They are rich in healthy fats, protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds that have various health benefits. So let us embark on a journey to explore the many virtues and wonders of walnuts.
Here are some of the reasons why you should include walnuts in your diet.
Walnuts without shells are 4% water, 15% Protein, 65% fat, and 14% Carbohydrates, including 7% dietary fiber. In a 100-gram reference serving, walnuts provide 2,740 kilojoules (654 kcal) and “rich” amounts (20% or more of the daily value of several dietary minerals, particularly manganese at 163% DV; along with significant amounts of B-Vitamins.
Unlike most nuts, which are high in monounsaturated fatty acids, walnut oil is composed largely of polyunsaturated fatty acids (72% of total fats), particularly alpha-linolenic acid (14%) and linoleic acid (58%), although it does contain oleic acid as 13% of total fats.
Here is the nutritional value of walnuts per 100 grams:
- Energy: 654 calories
- Fat: 65 grams
- Protein: 15 grams
- Carbohydrates: 14 grams
- Fiber: 6.7 grams
- Sugar: 2.6 grams
- Sodium: 2 milligrams
- Potassium: 441 milligrams
- Magnesium: 158 milligrams
- Phosphorus: 346 milligrams
- Calcium: 98 milligrams
- Iron: 2.9 milligrams
- Zinc: 2.3 milligrams
- Vitamin E: 15.2 milligrams
- Folate: 110 micrograms
- Manganese: 1.3 milligrams
Walnuts are a good source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. They are also a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, folate, and magnesium.
Nutritional Power House:
Walnuts are a rich source of plant-based protein, making them an excellent choice for vegetarians and vegans seeking alternative protein sources. They also boast an array of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, folate, magnesium, and copper, all of which contribute to overall health and well-being. With their impressive nutrient profile, walnuts prove to be a nutritional powerhouse that can nourish the body and mind.
High in Omega 3 Fatty Acids:
Walnuts are one of the best plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for your health. Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that have anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting effects. They also help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and inflammation, which can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
The main type of omega-3 fatty acid in walnuts is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is also found in flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and soybeans. ALA can be converted into longer-chain omega-3 fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are mainly found in fish oil. EPA and DHA have more potent health benefits than ALA, such as improving brain function, mood, vision, and immune system. However, the conversion rate of ALA to EPA and DHA is very low in humans, ranging from 0.2% to 8%.
A one-ounce (28-gram) serving of walnuts provides about 2.5 grams of ALA, which is more than the adequate intake recommended by the Institute of Medicine for adults (1.6 grams for men and 1.1 grams for women). Eating walnuts regularly may lower your risk of dying from heart disease by 10% for every gram of ALA you consume per day.
Loaded with Antioxidants:
Walnuts are also loaded with antioxidants, which are substances that protect your cells from oxidative stress and damage caused by free radicals. Oxidative stress can contribute to aging and chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
Walnuts have higher antioxidant activity than any other common nut, according to a study that tested the antioxidant power of nine types of nuts. The researchers attributed this to the high levels of vitamin E, melatonin, and polyphenols in walnuts. Polyphenols are plant compounds that have various health benefits. Walnuts contain a subgroup of polyphenols called ellagitannins, which are especially abundant in the papery skin of walnuts. Ellagitannins can be converted by your gut bacteria into compounds called urolithins, which have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects.
Walnuts have been linked to numerous cardiovascular advantages, thanks to their potential to reduce cholesterol levels and improve blood vessel function. Research suggests that including walnuts in your diet may help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol, promoting heart health and reducing the risk of heart disease. Furthermore, their anti-inflammatory properties and high antioxidant content may help combat oxidative stress, a key factor in the development of various chronic diseases.
One of the most remarkable aspects of walnuts is their impact on brain health. Their unique composition of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and polyphenols has been associated with cognitive benefits, such as improved memory and brain function. Studies have shown that regular consumption of walnuts may contribute to enhanced brain health and a reduced risk of age-related cognitive decline. So, if you seek to nourish your gray matter and unlock your mental potential, look no further than this mighty nut.
Antioxidants can also protect your brain cells from damage and enhance communication between neurons or nerve cells. Some antioxidants in walnuts may also prevent or delay neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease by modulating the activity of certain enzymes and pathways involved in these diseases. Studies have found that eating 15% of calories from walnuts for two years slowed down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in mice by reducing brain inflammation and preserving neuronal function.
Several studies have shown that eating walnuts can improve memory, learning, and cognitive function in animals and humans. For example, one study found that eating 13 grams of walnuts per day for eight weeks improved memory and learning skills in healthy college students.
Walnuts also offer a unique advantage for weight management. Despite their relatively high calorie content, the combination of protein, fiber, and healthy fats found in walnuts can promote satiety and help control appetite. Incorporating walnuts into a balanced diet may contribute to a feeling of fullness, potentially leading to better portion control and weight maintenance.
One study found that eating walnuts as a snack reduced hunger and appetite compared to a control snack. The researchers suggested that this may be due to the activation of a brain region involved in appetite control after eating walnuts. Another study found that adding walnuts to a Mediterranean diet for six months improved weight loss and body composition compared to a control diet. The walnut group also had lower levels of insulin and inflammation, which are both linked to obesity and metabolic syndrome.
Walnuts Are Good for Your Skin:
Walnuts are good for your skin as well. This is because they contain nutrients that can nourish, moisturize, and protect your skin from damage. Walnuts are rich in vitamin E, which is a fat-soluble antioxidant that can prevent or reduce skin damage caused by UV rays, pollution, or other environmental factors. Vitamin E can also improve skin hydration and elasticity by strengthening the skin barrier function.
Walnuts also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation and dryness in the skin. Omega-3 fatty acids can also modulate the production of sebum or oil in the skin, which can affect acne and other skin conditions.
Additionally, walnuts contain zinc, selenium, copper, and other minerals that are important for skin health. Zinc is involved in wound healing and collagen synthesis. Selenium is an antioxidant that can protect the skin from oxidative stress. Copper is a cofactor for enzymes that produce melanin, the pigment that gives color to your skin and hair.
Infertility affects ∼8–12% of couples worldwide with ∼40% attributed to male factors. Recent studies suggest a role for paternal diet in fertility. Walnuts contain a variety of nutrients essential in the development of spermatozoa.
A randomized clinical trial (RCT) to determine if consumption of walnuts improves semen parameters and fertility in men seeking clinical care for male factor infertility demonstrated a beneficial effect of adding walnuts to the diet on sperm motility and morphology in men seeking care for infertility. Preliminary fertility data suggests walnuts may enhance the probability of pregnancy for men with male factor infertility.
How to Eat Walnuts:
Beyond their nutritional prowess, walnuts add a delightful and versatile touch to a variety of dishes. From salads and baked goods to spreads and desserts, these nuts lend their distinct flavor and satisfying crunch to culinary creations. Whether they are toasted, ground, or simply sprinkled over a dish, walnuts elevate both the taste and nutritional value of meals, transforming them into wholesome and satisfying feasts.
Recommended Serving Size:
The recommended serving size for walnuts is one ounce (43 grams) or about 14 halves. This provides about 185 calories, 18.5 grams of fat (2.5 grams of omega-3s), 4.3 grams of protein, 1.9 grams of fiber, and various vitamins and minerals. However, you can eat more or less than this amount depending on your calorie needs and preferences.
Should we Eat Soaked Walnuts:
Eating soaked walnuts may have some benefits over eating them raw. According to some experts, soaking walnuts can help improve their digestibility and remove phytic acid and tannin, which are compounds that can interfere with the absorption of some nutrients. Soaking walnuts can also help prevent indigestion, reduce inflammation, and increase the availability of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. Soaking walnuts can help reduce the bitterness that some people find in raw walnuts.
However, there is not enough scientific evidence to support the claims that soaking walnuts is better for your health than eating them raw. Some studies have shown that soaking walnuts can reduce their polyphenol content, which may lower their antioxidant activity. Moreover, soaking walnuts can also increase the risk of microbial contamination if not done properly.
Therefore, it may be a matter of personal preference whether you want to eat soaked walnuts or not. You can try both methods and see which one suits you better. In any case, walnuts are a nutritious and delicious food that can provide many health benefits, whether soaked or raw.
How to Soak Walnuts:
To soak walnuts, follow these steps:
- Place the walnuts in a bowl or container.
- Add enough water to fully cover the walnuts.
- Allow them to soak for a certain period, usually 4 to 8 hours, or overnight.
- Drain the water and rinse the walnuts before consuming or using them in recipes.
It’s important to note that soaking walnuts can slightly alter their taste and texture. Soaked walnuts may also have a shorter shelf life and require refrigeration to prevent spoilage. If you choose to soak walnuts, it’s recommended to consume them within a few hours and store them properly to maintain freshness.
Potential Downsides of Eating Walnuts:
Walnuts are generally safe to eat for most people. However, there are some potential downsides to consider. Walnuts are one of the most common food allergens, especially among children. Walnut allergy can cause symptoms such as hives, swelling, itching, nausea, vomiting.
Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.
Mediterranean diet: The role of long-chain ω-3 fatty acids in fish; polyphenols in fruits, vegetables, cereals, coffee, tea, cacao and wine; probiotics and vitamins in prevention of stroke, age-related cognitive decline, and Alzheimer disease – PubMed (nih.gov)