Walnuts have been found in the diet of humans for more than 8000 years and walnut trees can live for hundreds of years. Some trees in France are thought to be more than 300 years old. They have an interesting history and the benefits of walnut are abundant. They are harvested and then dried. It’s important that they aren’t over dried or kept for too long as this decreases their quality.
They are very versatile and can be eaten alone, in salads and in a variety of other raw or cooked dishes. They can be enjoyed as they are, sweetened or seasoned. They can even be ground finely and used as a substitute for flour – this is called Walnut Meal.
There have been recent concerns about the fat content in walnuts as well as fear surrounding nut allergies, which can be serious problems, particularly for children. However, risks aside, the benefits of walnut are surprising and if there are no adverse risks, they can be enjoyed not only for pleasure, but for health and well being.
Here are some benefits of walnut, which may surprise you:
1. Walnuts make you look and feel great
Although walnuts do contain an abundance of calories, they don’t necessarily need to be avoided. In fact, coupled with a balanced diet of nutritious food, they can contribute to weight loss because their density can make you feel fuller quicker. This means they make a great snack, just a handful is enough. They are also rich in antioxidant vitamins and nutrients that can help with hair strength and shine; as well as clear and glowing skin. They contain Biotin or Vitamin B7, which helps maintain hair, nails and skin.
2. Walnuts can help you to relax
The hormone Melatonin is produced in the body by the pineal gland. It helps to regulate sleep and its production is affected by light. The amount of Melatonin we produce decreases as we age and that is why we experience sleep disturbances as we get older.
Walnuts are a good source of Melatonin and research has shown that consuming walnuts will increase the level of Melatonin in the body and causes an antioxidant effect in the blood. This means that eating walnuts as part of your balanced diet may help you to relax and sleep better. The benefit of walnut in this regard is that it may promote the general reduction of stress.
3. Walnuts keep your heart, blood and brain healthy
“(Omega 3 fatty acids) are an integral part of cell membranes throughout the body and affect the function of the cell receptors in these membranes. They provide the starting point for making hormones that regulate blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation. They also bind to receptors in cells that regulate genetic function. Likely due to these effects, omega-3 fats have been shown to help prevent heart disease and stroke, may help control lupus, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis, and may play protective roles in cancer and other conditions.” Harvard T.H. Chan, School of Public Health
Because consuming walnuts reduces bad cholesterol, investigations have shown that this can improve the health of our veins and blood, reducing the risk of type 2 Diabetes. Studies show that including walnuts in a healthy diet assists blood vessels to dilate and prevents clots and blockages that can cause heart attack and stroke among other diseases. A clinical trial published in the American Diabetes Association website concluded that:
“A walnut-enriched ad libitum diet improves endothelium-dependent vasodilatation in type 2 diabetic individuals, suggesting a potential reduction in overall cardiac risk.” David L. Katz et al.
Similarly, research on mice has shown that eating walnuts can prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s. Mice that were denied walnuts showed reductions in learning, memory and cognitive function. Mice that were fed a diet including walnuts showed evidence of the opposite.
In this instance, the antioxidants present in the walnuts reduced inflammation and degeneration of the brain. There was a counteracting effect on certain proteins that create plaques on the vessels in the brain, which can cause them to constrict and contributes to the onset of brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.
4. Walnuts can reduce the risk of cancer
Studies have shown that the benefit of walnut includes reducing the risk of both pancreatic and breast cancer. Once again, the antioxidants, vitamins and fatty acids in walnuts have a preventative effect on the degeneration of cells in the body that may become cancerous.
5. Walnuts help us at conception through to old age
Eating walnuts during pregnancy can provide the mother with the desirable fatty acids that lower cholesterol. Research cited by Wiley Blackwell, also shows that the fatty acids in walnut may help reduce the risk of the baby developing allergies by enhancing the formation of the gut and improving the way it responds to bacteria and foreign substances.
It makes the gut more porous and allows new substances to pass through it and into the blood stream more easily. This triggers the production of antibodies through the baby’s immune response. Another benefit of walnut is that it can improve sperm quality in healthy men aged between 21 – 35.
Given all the amazing properties of walnuts, initially at conception and to keep us healthy throughout our lives, it is safe to say that it is a food that should be included in a healthy and balanced diet. With its ability to reduce the risk of so many illnesses, some of them fatal, it’s safe to say that walnut contributes to longevity and a high life expectancy.
Here are some excellent recipes to try.
Photo credit: therawtarian.com
Photo credit: walnuts.org
Featured photo credit: Zheltyshev via shutterstock.com
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