Dating back to ancient times, walnuts have been known for providing us with health benefits such as high intellect and even promoting fertility in men. Walnuts are a rich source of energy and contain healthy nutrients, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins that are essential for optimum health. They are also known for their potential of lowering your risk of heart-related disease, diabetes, and specific cancers. Oil extracted from the nuts, apart from cooking, has been used as a base for oil in medicine and aromatherapy. And for those of you concerned about their caloric content, the high ratio of satiety-to-calories actually makes them helpful in appetite control.
Eating as few as six to seven walnuts a day could help scavenge almost all the disease causing free radicals from the human body. But be sure to eat the outermost layer of a shelled walnut – the whitish, flaky part – although it has a bitter flavor, it’s thought that 90 percent of the antioxidants are found in the skin. To increase the positive impacts on your health, look for nuts that are organic and raw, not irradiated or pasteurized.
Health benefits of walnuts include:
- Reduces risk for prostate and breast cancer – studies have indicated reduced prostate cancer growth by 30 to 40 percent, as well as cutting the risk for breast cancer in half and slowing tumor growth by fifty percent.
- Lowers risk of heart disease – 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. The plant-based omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is anti-inflammatory and may prevent the formation of pathological blood clots. However, if you struggle with herpes, you may want to avoid or limit walnuts, as high levels of arginine can deplete the amino acid lysine, which can trigger herpes recurrences.
- Improved reproductive health in men – one of the lesser-known benefits of walnuts is their impact on male fertility. Research shows that consuming a little over a half cup of walnuts per day significantly improves sperm quality, including vitality, motility, and morphology.
- Reduces risk for diabetes – the beneficial dietary fat in walnuts has been shown to benefit metabolic parameters in people with type 2 diabetes.
- Helps to lower “bad” cholesterol and increase “good” cholesterol – rich in omega-3essential fatty acids, regular intake of walnuts in the diet help in lowering total as well as LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increases HDL or “good cholesterol” levels in the blood.
- High levels in antioxidants – an excellent source of many phyto-chemical substances that may contribute to their overall anti-oxidant activity. These compounds are known to have potential health effects against cancer, aging, inflammation, and neurological diseases.
- An excellent source ofvitamin E, a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant, required for maintaining the integrity of cell membranes and skin by protecting it from harmful oxygen-free radicals.
- Loaded with B-complex vitamins – these little gems are loaded with many important B-complex vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates.
- Packed with trace minerals – walnut contain minerals such asmanganese, copper, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium. Copper is a cofactor for many vital enzymes and zinc is a co-factor in multiple enzymes that regulate growth and development, sperm generation, digestion, and nucleic acid synthesis. Selenium is an important micronutrient, which functions as a co-factor for anti-oxidant enzymes such as glutathione peroxidases.
- Walnut oil has flavorful nutty aroma and exhibits excellent astringent properties. Applied locally, it helps to keep skin well protected from dryness.
What to look for and how to store nuts:
When purchasing, walnuts should feature a bright brown color and be uniform in size and feel heavy in hand. They should be free from cracks, mold, spots, and a rancid smell. Un-shelled walnuts can be placed in a cool dry place for many months, whereas shelled (without the outer shell) kernels should be placed inside airtight containers and kept inside the freezer or refrigerator to avoid them turning rancid.
For those with a walnut allergy, which is a type of hypersensitivity reaction due to prior sensitization of the immune system by allergens in the nuts and may lead to severe physical symptoms like abdominal pain, vomiting, swelling of lips and throat leading to breathing difficulty, and chest congestion, it is obviously advised to avoid walnuts and any food preparations that contain these nut products.