A handful of walnuts is good for your heart and your waistline.
Dieters who are watching their waistlines might steer clear of walnuts when they hear that a one ounce serving (a small handful) has a whopping 18 grams of fat and 185 calories. However, a recent study revealed that a walnut-rich diet can actually help you to lose weight and improve your heart health.
The research, led by Cheryl Rock, PhD, RD, of the University of California San Diego, compared the weight loss of women eating a diet with unsaturated fats (like those found in walnuts and olive oil) with those on a lower-fat, higher-carb diet.
“One of the surprising findings of this study was that even though walnuts are higher in fat and calories, the walnut-rich diet was associated with the same degree of weight loss as a lower fat diet,” said Rock in a news release.
The results of the study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, also showed that a diet containing walnuts led to improved cardiovascular health.
This finding may seem counterintuitive, given walnuts’ high fat content. However, 13 of the 18 grams of fat in a one ounce serving are polyunsaturated, and include a sizable amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is a plant-derived form of omega-3 fatty acids. The heart healthy benefits of polyunsaturated fats have been proven before: a recent study from Harvard showed that polyunsaturated fats may lower your risk of heart disease and help you to live longer.
“Considering the results of this study, as well as previous walnut research on heart health and weight, there’s something to be said for eating a handful of walnuts a day,” said Rock.
Lauren Blake, RD, wellness dietician at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, suggests a few creative ways to eat walnuts each day:
- Puree or grind walnuts and add them to dips, chili, or smoothies.
- Chop up a handful of walnuts and sprinkle them over a salad, vegetables, or fruit.
- Spread walnut butter on fruit or toast or mix into oatmeal. Buy it at the store or, even better, make your own at home.
- Top off your favorite dessert with chopped walnuts.
- Give plain yogurt some pizzazz by mixing in crushed walnuts. Add a little sweetness by topping with honey or maple syrup.
- Walnut oil is great for dipping chips or veggies, blending into a salad dressing, or drizzling over food. Blake cautions against heating walnut oil, which gives it a bitter taste.
- Add crunch and flavor to fish by coating it with pureed walnuts.
California Walnut Board: “California Walnut Butter”
Lauren Blake, RD, Wellness Dietician at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
News release: Edelman Seattle
News release: Harvard School of Public Health