Nuts are well known for their nutritional benefits, including their high levels of heart-healthy fats, protein, antioxidants (substances that help protect cells from oxidative damage), plant sterols (natural substances found in plants that can help lower cholesterol), fiber, and minerals. But which nut is king when it comes to health? A recent presentation at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society suggests an answer: walnuts.
In spite of all the research on and analysis of nuts, scientists had never compared the nutritional quality of different nuts. Joe Vinson, PhD, from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, sought to fill in this information gap by comparing the amount and quality of antioxidants in nine different nuts: almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts.
He found that not only did walnuts have the highest level of antioxidants, they also had the most powerful antioxidants, ranking from 2 to 15 times as strong as vitamin E (a well-known antioxidant powerhouse). In addition to these superior nutritional qualities, Vinson noted another benefit of walnuts: Unlike many other types of nuts, walnuts are generally eaten raw, preventing the reduction in antioxidant quality that typically accompanies roasting.
According to Vinson, “Walnuts rank above peanuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios and other nuts. 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.”
So why don’t people eat more walnuts, or indeed any type of nuts? Vinson suggests that many people may not be aware of the health benefits of this type of food, and others may be worried about gaining weight from eating too many nuts. He points out that studies suggest nuts can help people feel full and may therefore actually prevent overeating. Moreover, he points out that only seven walnuts a day are necessary to provide health benefits.
For more information, read the press release on the Web site of the American Chemical Society. And to incorporate walnuts into your diet, try one of the following great recipes:
Caribbean chicken salad
Hot and spicy nuts
Parsely, pear, and walnut salad
Simple fiber-up snack mix