Top 5 Health Benefits of Walnuts + Nutrition Info and Fun Facts

Written by Dr Rebecca Harwin

Walnuts are the world’s most commonly consumed nut and are great for salads, snacks, baking, and even liquor. Walnuts also have a long history as a therapeutic agent.

Research reveals a multitude of walnut health benefits including reduced cardiovascular disease, treatment of type 2 diabetes, prevention of cancers, reduced age-related symptoms, prevention of neurological disease, and maybe even weight loss. (1)

With a low glycemic index and a richness of nutrients like omega 6 and 3 fatty acids, minerals like copper and manganese, vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, E and K, plus protein, it is time to make these brain-shaped nuts a staple in your food plan.

Walnuts Health Benefits

Walnuts can decrease cardiovascular disease risk

There has been much research into the benefits of walnuts for heart health. (2,3) Walnuts have been shown to reduce LDL and total cholesterol levels. This is due to a combination of nutrients such as vitamin E, polyunsaturated fats, antioxidants, and polyphenols. Walnuts increase gamma-tocopherol and omega 3 fatty acids in blood, which have a cardioprotective effect. Walnuts can also improve blood vessel lining (endothelial) cell function leading to improved vascular health. This nut also reduces the risk of excessive blood clotting and inflammation, which can block the vessels, and reduces death by all cardiovascular causes.

Walnuts may fight against cancer

Walnuts may fight cancer in a number of ways; slowing cancer growth, reducing tumor weight, and halting the growth of new blood vessels essential for cancer to thrive and spread (4). While research has predominantly been conducted in animal models for breast and prostate cancers, human colorectal cancer cells are also reduced by walnut consumption (5).

Walnuts can maintain brain health while aging

With our aging population comes an unwelcome increase in the incidence of cognitive decline and neurodegenerative disease. With no known effective treatments for these diseases, prevention is key with the walnut playing a distinguished role. English walnuts contain high amounts of brain loving polyunsaturated fatty acids and other phytochemicals. Polyphenolic compounds improve the way nerve cells talk to each other (interneuronal signaling), nerve growth (neurogenesis), and enhance removal of brain-damaging toxins (6).

Walnuts could enhance weight loss

Contrary to the popular belief that nuts result in weight gain, the opposite may be true. When 30 grams walnuts were consumed per day, one study found participants lost significantly more than those who went walnut free. This might be due to the healthy fat and protein content, which has been shown to reduce cravings and appetite. (7)

Walnuts contain polyunsaturated fats and are therapeutic for type 2 diabetes

Walnut oil can reduce blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics. (8) These changes may be due their polyunsaturated fat content, and result in improved blood glucose control, enhanced insulin sensitivity and reduced inflammation.

Nutrient Info For Walnuts

Serving size: 1 oz handful (14 halves)

Top 10 Nutrients by %DV
  • Omega 3s159% AI
  • Manganese48% DV
  • Fat28% DV
  • Copper22% DV
  • Magnesium11% DV
  • Phosphorus10% DV
  • Calories9% DV
  • Saturated Fat9% DV
  • Protein9% DV
  • Vitamin B68% DV
Table for Common Nutrients
Nutrient%DV
Calories 183 9%
Fat 18.3g 28%
Protein 4.3g 9%
Carbohydrate 3.8g 1%
Sugars 0.7g ~
Fiber 1.9g 5%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Saturated Fats 1.715g 9%
Calcium, Ca 27.4mg 3%
Iron, Fe 0.8mg 4%
Potassium, K 123.5mg 4%
Magnesium, Mg 44.2mg 11%
Vitamin A, IU 5.6IU 0%
Vitamin C 0.4mg 1%
Vitamin B-12 0μg 0%

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database - Release 28.
See the complete nutrition facts with over 150 nutrients, or the nutrition facts comparison of Walnuts vs other foods.

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Walnuts Fun Facts

  1. Walnuts are the most widely consumed tree nut in the world.
  2. China currently grows the most walnuts with 1.6 million tons per year. The U.S. is 2nd growing about half a million tons per year.
  3. The English walnut actually originated in Persia.
  4. Walnut flour can be used as a healthful, gluten-free option in cooking.
  5. With its roots able to secrete a toxic compound called juglone that can kill or maim nearby plants, this competitive advantage might explain why walnut trees can live up to 250 years.
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Data Sources and References

  1. Walnuts (Juglans regia) Chemical Composition and Research in Human Health.
  2. The Scientific Evidence for a Beneficial Health Relationship Between Walnuts and Coronary Heart Disease
  3. Health benefits of walnut polyphenols: An exploration beyond their lipid profile.
  4. Dietary walnuts inhibit colorectal cancer growth in mice by suppressing angiogenesis
  5. Mechanistic examination of walnuts in prevention of breast cancer.
  6. Role of walnuts in maintaining brain health with age.
  7. Impact of providing walnut samples in a lifestyle intervention for weight loss: a secondary analysis of the HealthTrack trial
  8. The Effect of Walnut Oil Consumption on Blood Sugar in Patients With Diabetes Mellitus Type 2