Snacking on Walnuts May Provide Benefit

walnuts_healthAlthough some people avoid them because of their reputation for being high in fat, nuts can be a great snack food in moderation. In particular – raw tree nuts such as almonds, cashews and walnuts, which have been linked to lower cholesterol, better heart health, weight control, and even a lower cancer risk. They are packed with filling protein, fiber, unsaturated fats, and important vitamins and minerals. Nuts – especially walnuts – may also have a protective benefit against diabetes and heart disease in at-risk individuals, according to a new study.

The  study looked at a sample of 46 adults aged 30-75 who were overweight or obese and had a waist circumference exceeding 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women. All of the participants had one or more risk factors for metabolic syndrome, a precursor of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Half of the group was instructed to eat 56 grams (about 1/4 cup) of shelled, unroasted English walnuts per day as a snack or with a meal, and the other half did not. The researchers measured the participants’ endothelial function (an indicates how well blood flows inside someone’s blood vessels). They found that adding walnuts to the diet improved endothelial function in overweight adults with abdominal obesity. Other tests showed blood pressure improvement, and those who added walnuts to their diet did not gain weight.

Dr. David Katz, Director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and lead author of the study said: “We know that improving diets tends to be hard, but adding a single food is easy. Our theory is that if a highly nutritious, satiating food like walnuts is added to the diet, there are dual benefits: the benefits of that nutrient rich addition and removal of the less nutritious foods.” The findings were published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

Dr. Emma Patterson says, “Nuts are generally high calorie, but not all nuts are created equal. For a healthy snack, buying walnuts that are pre-portioned into 100 calorie bags is a great way to make sure you don’t add too many calories to your diet. Or if you prefer to buy a bigger bag, read the nutritional label and set aside the number of nuts you’re going to eat and then put the bag away before you start snacking.”

Related Reading: More Support for Adding Almonds to Your Diet

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