When it comes to heart health, it might surprise you that eating a calorie-dense, high-fat snack (we’re looking at you, walnuts) is a good choice for cardiovascular health. But it’s true. Here’s a few reasons you should consider reaching for a small handful of walnuts.
Walnuts are the only nuts that contain significant amounts of omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Your body uses this type of fat for energy, and to a limited degree, it can convert ALA into EPA and DHA — the essential omega-3s you get from certain fatty fish.
Researchers at Yale University recently found that participants in a study who ate two ounces of walnuts every day for six months had significant reductions in LDL (bad) cholesterol.
In addition to lowering cholesterol, studies show that walnuts may also help decrease blood pressure.
Walnuts contain powerful antioxidants and polyphenols that may help prevent cancer as well as memory loss and cognitive decline.
A 1/4 cup serving of walnuts also gives you 2 grams of fiber, a nutrient that can help lower cholesterol and help you feel full. Americans eating a 2,000-calorie diet should aim for 28 grams of fiber daily.
Plus, they’re delicious. In baked goods, on cereals, mixed into breading for fish or chicken, pureed into dips or spreads — there’s no shortage of ways to use walnuts. But because they’re high in calories, it’s important to adjust your diet accordingly. For reference, a 1/4-cup serving contains approximately 190 calories.
You can also get similar benefits from using walnut oil (which has about 120 calories in 1 tablespoon). However, because walnut oil can taste bitter if heated, it’s best to use it as a dipping oil for bread or to lightly dress salads and vegetables.