Walnuts are perhaps best-known for being the quintessential healthy brain-food. But who knew that walnuts were also winning top prizes for their heart-healthy, free-radical fighting, antioxidant properties as well?
Recent scientific evidence shows how the walnut may possibly be the number one food on the planet for heart healthy antioxidant support. And it’s not just that the walnut alone that was studied for its antioxidant quantity.
The study included many varieties of tree and ground nuts, with walnuts ranking top dog over other healthy nuts, like almonds, pecans, peanuts and pistachios. In fact, just a handful of walnuts holds two times more heart-healthy antioxidants than all other commonly-purchased nuts.
In 2011 report, given at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in California , scientists offered an in-depth analysis demonstrating how walnuts have a unique mix of more free-radical neutralizing antioxidants, as well as higher quality antioxidants than any other nut on the planet. The study analyzed both the amount and quality of antioxidants found in walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias and pecans.
The study was direct and conclusive: Walnuts hold the largest amounts, and the highest potency’s, of antioxidants, as compared to other nuts. The study also found that the nut has up to 15 times more antioxidant potency than vitamin E, an oil known for its strong antioxidant effects. This suggests that walnuts may play a role in preventing us from getting cancer, as well as other free-radical-based diseases.
What the walnut has that other foods may not:
- A unique combination of nutritional benefits and antioxidants
- A complete high-quality protein that packs almost as much protein-punch as meat
- Tons of vitamins and minerals
- A natural form of dietary fiber in a raw and easy to eat form
Because of these great health benefits, the scientists conducting the study encourage us to include more walnuts in our diet. The best way to eat them is in-the-raw and organic, as we can reap most of the antioxidant benefits this way. In fact, years of research by other scientists suggest that the regular consumption of small amounts of nuts, such as walnuts, can lower our chances of developing heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, gallstones, as well as other health issues.
Joe Vinson, Ph.D., who did the analysis, explains:
“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… There’s another advantage in choosing walnuts as a source of antioxidants. The heat from roasting nuts generally reduces the quality of the antioxidants. People usually eat walnuts raw or unroasted, and get the full effectiveness of those antioxidants.”
It’s important to eat nuts for antioxidant support, and the aforementioned study says that you only need 7 walnuts a day for great levels of antioxidants! And yet, despite these high numbers of antioxidants, most people are not eating nuts!
In fact, research from Vinson shows that nuts only make up approximately 8% of the daily antioxidants found in the average person’s diet. This may be due to a lack of awareness around their health benefits, but may also come from the myth that nuts are “high in fat,” and should be avoided. This is sad news, as the fats in nuts are some of the best fats on the planet, and are high in healthy forms of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (the kinds that do not clog your arteries).
How often do you eat walnuts? Will this study encourage you to eat more? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments below!
- Vinson JA,, Cai Y. “Nuts, especially walnuts, have both antioxidant quantity and efficacy and exhibit significant potential health benefits.” Food Funct. 2012;3(2),134-40.
- “Walnuts are top nut for heart-healthy antioxidants.” 27 Mar. 2011. American Chemical Society.