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Why You Should Start Eating More Walnuts

Thank you to my friends at California Walnuts for sponsoring this post!

As a dietitian (and tasty food fan), I have a total crush on walnuts.

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Not only are they delicious, and one of my favorite nuts, but they are also a nutritional superstar. More than two decades of research has shown that walnuts may help lower cardiovascular risk factors by decreasing LDL (bad) cholesterol by 9-16%, and diastolic blood pressure by 2-3 mmHg.

Why are walnuts so awesome? They are the only nuts that provide a significant source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have positive anti-inflammatory effects. In the U.S., we eat way too many omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in foods like vegetable oil (e.g. soybean, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, sesame oil, etc.), and not enough omega-3s, found in foods like walnuts and fatty fish. While walnuts do have omega-6s as well, the walnut ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 (about 4:1) is still a big improvement compared to other nuts (which don’t have much, if any, omega-3 at all, and still have a fair amount of omega-6, so the ratios are much higher).

Omega-6 fatty acids do have their own function, but in excess they can lead to inflammation in the body, particularly when their balance with the omega-3 fatty acid intake is off kilter. Between 1935 and 1939, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids was reported to be 8.4:1; today, estimates of the ratio range from an average of 10:1 to 20:1, with a ratio as high as 25:1 in some.

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What’s the problem with inflammation? It can be a factor in increased heart disease risk; in fact, elevated omega-6 intakes have been associated with an increase in all inflammatory diseases. The good news? Studies are showing that a lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 (so, more omega-3 intake and/or less omega-6) can reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Research has also found that omega-3 fatty acids may decrease the inflammatory market C-reactive protein (CRP) in those with high cholesterol. Nice!

A once ounce serving of walnuts will provide 2.5 grams of ALA, the plant-based short chain omega-3 fatty acid. This is good news for those of you who don’t eat (or don’t like) omega-3 packed fish!

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Outside of the omega-3 situation, the fat in walnuts is also great for helping make meals more satisfying, and with improving the absorption of fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. So don’t be scared of fat, my friends!

In honor of all this awesomeness, and the fact that February is National Heart Month, here are some of my favorite heart healthy, walnut-packed recipes already here on the blog. You can find more information about walnuts, including their positive effects on the heart, at http://www.walnuts.org/.

Enjoy!

Perfect Microwave Banana Oatmeal
While walnuts aren’t technically part of this recipe, I really love topping my oats with walnuts! In addition to the omega-3s, one ounce of walnuts adds 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber to the mix. Nice!

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Tart Cherry Pie Snack Balls
(honorable mention: Oatmeal Raisin Energy Bites)

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Vegan and Gluten Free Granola Bars 
(honorable mention: Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Granola Bars)

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Zesty Lemon Zucchini Muffins
(honorable mention: Fresh Cranberry and Walnut Pumpkin Bread)

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Baked Apple Cinnamon Oat Bars
(honorable mention: Apple Walnut Crunch Spelt Muffins)

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Simple Baked Oatmeal

simple baked oatmeal

We’ll end with something sweet, but still healthy:

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

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What, you wanted a savory recipe, too? Okay, fine. :) Here’s a lunchtime fave: Healthy Chicken Salad!

What’s your favorite way to enjoy walnuts? Clearly I especially love walnuts at breakfast, snack time, and in baked goods!

Comments

  1. 1

    I thought walnuts had an Omega 6 : Omega 3 ratio of about 4:1. Doesn’t sound like eating them would help balance that ratio much overall (though it’s a better ratio than other nuts have). Maybe I’m missing something here?

    • 2

      Good point – and one I should have noted in the post, thank you! You’re right that they do include omega 6 as well (and yes, in about a 4:1 ratio), but other nuts have more or less no omega 3 and a fair amount of omega 6, so it’s still an improvement, ratio-wise (and omega-3 wise) if you’re swapping in walnuts in place of another nut. Especially if you don’t eat fish! And of course outside of the omega situation, I love walnuts because the fat really helps with satiety.

    • 5

      I went ahead and updated my post to clarify this point. Thanks again!

  2. 6

    This makes me so happy I put walnuts in my lunch chicken salad every day!

  3. 7

    I love walnuts! I like to use them in making homemade granola, larabars, or in paleo cereal!

  4. 12

    I am a nut fan but I often favor cashew nuts, brasil nuts, hazelnuts or even almonds instead of walnuts. It’s funny, now that I think of it, I rarely eat walnuts even though they are probably the cheapest. Must change that!

  5. 13

    I like walnuts in my banana bread

  6. 14

    After pecans they’re my fave :) Love em in salads with a little honey as a sweet treat!

  7. 15

    Walnuts are amazing. I love them with craisins as a snack. I made the mistake of expressing that to my MIL and now whenever I see her she brings me Costco bags of walnuts and Craisins. I have like 3 in my pantry because I don’t eat them that fast and need to learn how to tell her to slow down!!

  8. 17

    I love walnuts! I make a prosciutto-wrapped tilapia with honey, sage, and toasted walnuts, and I love them mixed into granola bars! I’ll have to try some of your recipes :)

  9. 19

    I love walnuts! They’re delicious and so versatile. One of my favorite ways to enjoy them is to toast them up in a pan and add them to green beans. I’ve also heard of people making pesto with them. I haven’t tried that yet, but maybe this summer when we have some fresh basil!

  10. 20

    Love the idea of putting walnuts into oatmeal recipes..yum! especially since they are such a nutritional powerhouse! :)

  11. 21

    I love walnuts!! Have you ever made walnut butter? I’ve thought about it before, but not sure how it’d turn out!

  12. 22

    I absolutely ADORE walnuts! I think they work really well in chocolatey recipes :) YUM! Thanks for the fun facts and the tasty recipe inspiration!

  13. 23

    Walnuts are great, indeed!

  14. 24

    I love walnuts! They are my go to source of crunch in my morning porridge, and I love adding some into muffins or breads. On Saturday night a big handful went into my Valentine’s Day chocolate brownies :P

  15. 25

    I can no longer eat nuts :( but I do love walnuts!!

  16. 26

    Love this walnut recipe round-up… must try the cherry pie snack balls. So nice to read all the walnuts I eat are so very good for me :)

Trackbacks

  1. […] in more walnut information and walnut-inspired recipes? Check out this post I wrote last year: Why You Should Start Eating More Walnuts. And here are some of my favorite walnut recipes here on the […]

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