Walnuts are a healthy nut chock-full of essential nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. They’re also easy to incorporate into your diet.
To say that walnuts are a nutritious food is a bit of an understatement.
Walnuts provide healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals — and that’s just the beginning of how they may support your health.
In fact, there’s so much interest in this one nut that scientists and industry experts have gathered annually for the past 50 years at the University of California, Davis, for a walnut conference to discuss the latest walnut health research.
The most common variety of walnut is the English walnut (Juglans regia), which is also the most studied type.
Here are 13 science-based health benefits of walnuts.
If LDL cholesterol builds up in your arteries, it can cause
Walnuts are an excellent source of antioxidants that can help lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol level.
According to the Institute of Medicine, an adequate intake of ALA is 1.6 g per day for men and 1.1 g per day for women. A
Walnuts are a good source of the plant form of omega-3 fat, which may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and conditions.
The polyphenols in walnuts can help fight oxidative stress and inflammation.
A subgroup of polyphenols called
Beneficial bacteria in your gut convert ellagitannins to compounds called urolithins, which have been found to protect against inflammation.
Several plant compounds and nutrients in walnuts may help decrease inflammation, which is a key culprit in many chronic conditions.
What you eat can significantly influence the makeup of your microbiota. Eating walnuts may be one way to support the health of your microbiota and your gut.
Eating walnuts nourishes both you and the beneficial bacteria that live in your gut. This promotes gut health and may help reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, and cancer.
As noted earlier, walnuts are rich in polyphenols called ellagitannins. Certain gut microbes can convert these to compounds called urolithins.
Urolithins can have anti-inflammatory properties in your gut, which may be one way that eating walnuts helps protect against colorectal cancer. These anti-inflammatory actions could also help protect against other cancers.
What’s more, urolithins have hormone-like properties that enable them to block hormone receptors in your body. This may help reduce your risk of hormone-related cancers, especially breast and prostate cancers.
But more human studies are needed to determine the effects of eating walnuts on the risk of these and other cancers.
The polyphenols in walnuts may reduce your risk of certain cancers, including breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers. However, more human studies are needed to learn more about this.
Walnuts are calorie-dense, but a small 2016 study suggests that your body absorbs 21% less energy from them than would be expected based on their nutrients.
What’s more, eating walnuts may help regulate your appetite.
Additionally, after 5 days of consuming the walnut smoothies, brain scans showed that the participants had increased activation in a region of the brain that helped them resist highly tempting food cues, such as cake and french fries.
Even though larger and longer-term studies are needed, this provides some initial insight into how walnuts may help regulate appetite and weight.
Though walnuts are calorie-dense, you may not absorb all the calories they contain. Additionally, they may help regulate your appetite.
Observational studies suggest that one reason walnuts are linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes is that they help manage weight.
Eating walnuts may help regulate blood sugar by mechanisms beyond their influence on weight management.
In a small
This resulted in an 8% decrease in fasting blood sugar.
Additionally, the walnut oil users had about an 8% decrease in hemoglobin A1C (3-month average blood sugar).
The control group showed no improvement in A1C or fasting blood sugar. Neither group had a change in their weight.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that consuming walnut oil is not the same as eating whole walnuts.
Consuming walnut oil and walnuts may help manage type 2 diabetes and reduce your risk of the disease by helping to regulate your weight. Walnuts might have more direct effects on blood sugar regulation as well.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
Additionally, the authors of a 2019 research review examined the effects of a Mediterranean diet, which often involves consumption of walnuts and other nuts. They concluded that following the Mediterranean diet may help lower blood pressure in some people.
This suggests that nuts may slightly improve the blood pressure benefits of a heart-healthy diet. Even small differences in blood pressure are thought to have a big impact on your risk of heart disease.
Some studies suggest that eating nuts, including walnuts, daily as part of a heart-healthy diet may help improve blood pressure.
As you age, good physical functioning is essential for maintaining your mobility and independence.
One thing that may help you maintain your physical abilities is healthy eating habits.
In an observational
Walnuts were among the foods that made the strongest contribution to a healthy diet.
A healthy diet that includes walnuts may help preserve physical function, such as walking and self-care abilities, as you age.
It may be just a coincidence that the shell of a walnut looks like a tiny brain, but research suggests that this nut may indeed be good for your mind.
Animal and human
Though these results are encouraging, more studies on the effects of walnuts on brain function in humans are needed before researchers can draw firm conclusions.
Walnuts contain nutrients that may help protect your brain from damaging inflammation and support good brain function as you age.
Eating walnuts may help support sperm health and male fertility.
In a 2012 study involving 117 healthy young men, participants who ate 2.5 oz (75 g) of walnuts per day for 3 months as part of a Western-style diet had improved sperm shape, vitality and motility compared to those who did not eat nuts.
Further studies are needed to learn more about these benefits. But if you have concerns about fertility and sperm function, eating walnuts is a simple thing to try.
Eating walnuts regularly may help counteract potentially harmful effects of less-than-ideal eating habits on sperm health.
Elevated levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides have long been linked to an increased heart disease risk.
Regularly eating walnuts has been consistently shown to
In a small
The walnut eaters also had nearly a 6% decrease in apolipoprotein B, which is an indicator of how many LDL particles are in your blood. Elevated apolipoprotein B is a major risk factor for heart disease.
A daily 1.5-oz (43-g) serving of walnuts may help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which contribute to heart disease risk.
It’s helpful to understand how to convert the serving sizes used in studies so that you know how your portion sizes compare.
- 1 oz shelled walnuts = 28 g = 1/4 cup = 12–14 halves = 1 small handful
Though it’s simplest to eat walnuts one by one as a snack, there are plenty of tasty ways to use them in dishes.
You can try walnuts:
- sprinkled on leafy green or fruit salads.
- finely ground in dips and sauces
- chopped and used in whole grain breads and scones
- crushed to use as a coating on fish or chicken
- served atop oatmeal or yogurt
- chopped and added to wraps or pita sandwiches
- roasted and added to a homemade trail mix
- lightly browned in your favorite stir-fry recipe
- roasted or chopped on pasta or vegetables
- as an oil in a vinaigrette dressing
You may also want to scour the internet for tasty recipe ideas.
If you’re cooking for guests, make sure no one is allergic to walnuts before adding them to your dishes.
Walnuts are easy to add to your diet since they’re widely available in stores and a great addition to countless dishes. Just be wary of any nut allergies.
Are walnuts better for you than almonds?
Walnuts and almonds both provide health benefits. Determining which one is better for you depends on your health goals.
If you want to target brain health, walnuts are your go-to. But if you’re looking to boost your intake of nutrients such as vitamin E, phosphorus, and magnesium,
Is it safe to eat walnuts every day?
Walnuts are an exceptionally nutritious nut. They have greater antioxidant activity and significantly more healthy omega-3 fatty acids than any other common nut.
This rich nutrient profile contributes to the many health benefits associated with walnuts, such as reduced inflammation and improved heart disease risk factors.
Scientists are still uncovering the many ways that walnuts’ fiber and plant compounds, including polyphenols, may interact with your gut microbiota and contribute to your health.
It’s likely that you’ll hear more about walnuts in the years to come as more researchers study their potential health benefits.
Still, there are plenty of reasons to try a walnut-enriched diet.