Go nuts. That’s what results of a study presented this weekend at the American Chemical Society meeting in Anaheim said about walnuts. It’s the top banana (nut?) among nature’s most ideal packaged food: Tree and ground nuts.
The study proved that walnuts have a combination of more healthful antioxidants and higher quality antioxidants than any other nut. This is the first time researchers compared both the amount and quality of antioxidants found in nine different types of nuts: walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias, and pecans. Walnuts had the highest levels of antioxidants.
“Walnuts rank above peanuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios and other nuts,” said Joe Vinson, Ph.D., who did the analysis. “A handful of walnuts contains almost twice as much antioxidants as an equivalent amount of any other commonly consumed nut. But unfortunately, people don’t eat a lot of them. This study suggests that consumers should eat more walnuts as part of a healthy diet.”
It’s long been known that almost all types of nuts have health benefits. Experts at The Mayo Clinic noted that incorporating nuts as part of a healthy diet can lower the LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol level – one of the primary causes of heart disease. Eating nuts daily has been linked to improved sexual health, lower levels of obesity, reduced risk of fatal heart disease and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. As an added benefit, a long-term study of nurses found that nut-eaters tended to weigh less than those that did not eat nuts.
Besides their convenience and low cost, nuts also contain plenty of high-quality protein that can substitute for meat; vitamins and minerals; dietary fiber; and are dairy- and gluten-free. Eating small amounts of nuts or peanut butter regularly has been linked to a decreased risk of heart disease, certain cancers, gallstones, Type 2 Diabetes and other health issues.
Antioxidants in walnuts were 2-15 times as potent as vitamin E, famous for its powerful effects that protect the body against damaging natural chemicals involved in causing disease.
According to Dr. Vinson, nuts account for barely 8 percent of the daily antioxidants in the average person’s diet. Many people, he said, may not be aware that nuts are such a healthful food. Others may be concerned about gaining weight from a food so high in fat and calories.
But he points out that nuts contain healthful polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats rather than artery-clogging saturated fat. As for the calories, eating nuts does not appear to cause weight gain and even makes people feel full and less likely to overeat. Other studies have linked eating nuts with significantly lower risk of obesity and weight gain. A little bit of nuts does a lot — Vinson said it takes only about 7 walnuts a day, for instance, to get the potential health benefits.
Experts advise that to get the most health benefits from any type of nut, it’s best to eat them raw.