Walnuts have been though of as “brain food”, probably because the nut’s structure considerably resembles that of the human brain. Whether this is true or not is not clear. What is well-known is that walnuts are heart-friendly food. They are rich in essential “good” fatty acids omega-3, and phytosterols and antixodants. They have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels and can help prevent heart disease and stroke.
This recent study suggests that walnuts may also prevent breast cancer.
The researchers tested a walnut diet on laboratory mice. The mice were fed a diet that is approximately the human equivalent of two ounces of walnuts a day. They were then compared to a control group not fed with walnuts.
The group fed with walnuts had significantly reduced incidence of breast cancer. The number of glands with a tumor and the size of the tumor were also significantly reduced.
According to Dr. Elaine Hardman, associate professor of medicine at Marshall University School of Medicine
Laboratory analysis indicated that omega-3 fatty acids played a major role in the anti-cancer properties. However, other parts of the nuts contributed as well.
Aside from omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts also contain:
- omega-6 fatty acids
- vitamin B1 and B6
- vitamin E.
Web MD adds:
Walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid or ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid similar to those found in heart-smart fish, such as salmon. Alpha-linolenic acid has a number of heart-healthy effects, independent of its cholesterol-lowering effects. It has been shown in previous studies to reduce the risk of sudden death from dangerous abnormal heart rhythms.
When it comes to snacks, walnuts are highly recommended. One ounce of walnuts (about 14 shelled walnut halves) is all that is needed to meet the 2002 dietary recommendation of the Food Nutrition Board of the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine for omega-3 fatty acids. An ounce of walnuts, which is approximately 25 g has an equivalent of 170 calories. Here are some ways to incorporate walnuts in your diet:
- Walnuts are best eaten fresh so that no nutrients are lost.
- Packed walnuts are also available in supermarkets, shelled or unshelled.
- Walnut oil can be used in preparing salads.
- Chopped walnuts go very well with morning cereals.
- Chopped walnuts can also be added to green salads.
- Chopped or ground walnuts can be used in baking cookies, muffins and cakes.
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