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Cracking more of this powerful little nut into your diet can be one simple way to possibly lower your chance of death from cardiovascular disease.
From party snack spreads to cozy oatmeal bowls, it’s the perfect time of year to harness the health benefits of nuts. Thanks to a recent study in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, regularly consuming one particular type of nut was linked with a “better cardiovascular disease risk profile” and improved heart health.
The public health researchers who led the current study pointed out that “cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death globally.” In the US, 2022 CDC data suggest that over 20 million Americans aged 20 years and older have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. With statistics like these, indeed cracking this powerful nut into your diet can be a simple—and yummy—way to show a little extra love to your ticker.
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What the study says
Earlier this year, researchers from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health concluded that specific nutrients found in walnuts may considerably reduce heart disease risk. The study was funded by the California Walnut Commission and analyzed dietary data from 3,092 young adults over the course of 20 years, as well as assessed the participants’ physical and clinical measurements over a 30-year span.
The researchers looked at how walnut consumption stood up to the regular consumption of other nuts (these included almonds, pecans, pistachios, cashews, peanuts, hazelnuts, and peanut butter)—as well as no nut consumption—and how those factors seemed to play into the heart disease risk factors for the participants over three decades.
As a result, walnut consumers generally had lower blood pressure and triglyceride concentration compared to eaters of other nuts. Walnut fans also scored significantly higher on the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Healthy Eating Index, and on average had lower body mass indexes and waist circumferences.
Further, walnut eaters had lower fasting blood glucose than non-nut eaters.
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Why you may want to eat walnuts more often!
While the researchers concluded that a range of nuts can benefit heart health, they pointed out that walnuts provide a unique set of nutrients that make them powerful for cardiovascular health.
Unlike some other nuts, walnuts contain a generous amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are known for reducing triglycerides, a type of fat found in the blood that is known for increasing the risk of heart disease. In particular, a single one-ounce serving of walnuts provides a sufficient amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that comes from some plants (think soybeans, flaxseed, and olives). One 2015 American Heart Association report stated that ALA has “been shown to reduce the risk of death from coronary heart disease and from heart attack.”
Along with the high concentration of omega 3s, walnuts also are high in fiber (another essential heart-healthy nutrient!), protein, magnesium, and vitamin B6.
It’s important to add that the researchers suggest these heart-healthy effects were probably not from walnuts alone—in fact, they report: “Compared with other nut and no nut consumers, walnut consumers ate more servings of whole grain products, fruit, vegetables, legumes, and fish, and fewer servings of refined grain products, red meat and processed meat.” Safe to say it’s that generally balanced, nutrient-packed regular diet that contributes to lower heart disease risk.
Still, it could be worthwhile to throw back a small handful of walnuts more regularly. The Cleveland Clinic suggests 14 walnut halves is an appropriate serving. (That’s approximately the quarter-cup, one-ounce serving the University of Minnesota researchers found was effective, too.)
If the results of this study have you feeling nuts for nuts, read up on The 5 Healthiest Nuts You Can Eat.