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It’s always nice to read scientific research that confirms what we already knew about a “superfood” — and how eating it can put the odds of living disease-free and healthy in your court.
It’s particularly gratifying when the food in question contributes to our health in a variety of ways — like walnuts do…
Previous research into this “healthy fat” nut has shown that eating walnuts can slash your risk of both heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
And because it’s chock full of antioxidants, walnuts have been found to help slow the growth of cancer cells.
So I wasn’t surprised to read a study showing that eating walnuts regularly can actually add years to your life…
Eating more walnuts reduces risk of death
In a study supported by the California Walnut Commission and published in Nutrients, a research team at Harvard University discovered a strong link between eating more walnuts and an extended lifespan for older adults. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…
The research team analyzed data on 67,104 women whose average age was 63.6 years old. The data was originally collected for the Nurses’ Health Study (1998 to 2018).
They also analyzed data on 26,326 older men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (1998 to 2018).
Both groups completed a survey on their walnut consumption — and here’s how it all came out in the wash…
For starters, the researchers found that five or more servings of walnuts per week (one serving equals one ounce) may provide the greatest benefit for mortality risk and life expectancy. In fact, five or more servings per week were associated with:
- a 14 percent lower risk of death from any cause;
- a 25 percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases;
- a gain of about 1.3 years of life expectancy — compared to those who didn’t consume walnuts.
Eating walnuts two to four times per week was associated with:
- a 13 percent lower risk of death overall;
- a 14 percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases;
- a gain of about one year of life, compared to those who eschewed the healthy nut.
An especially interesting finding was that these benefits were even greater for people whose diet was considered “less than healthy.”
According to lead investigator Yanping Li from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “What we’ve learned from this study is that even a few handfuls of walnuts per week may help promote longevity, especially among those whose diet quality isn’t great to begin with. It’s a practical tip that can be feasible for a number of people who are looking to improve their health, which is top of mind for many people.”
For those folks, just a one-half serving per day increase in walnut consumption included a 12 percent reduced risk of death and 26 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular diseases.
Other reasons to eat more walnuts
If this research doesn’t convince you to add some walnuts to your diet, here are a few more reasons that might:
- Read what my colleague Carolyn Gretton has to say about the anti-inflammatory power of walnuts.
- Walnuts have been found to increase the diversity of bacteria in the gut, making for a healthier gut and better overall health.
- Eating walnuts has been found to lower diastolic blood pressure even more than following a diet with a similar fatty acid profile.
- Researchers believe that the antioxidants in walnuts help keep cognitive decline at bay by preventing the free radical destruction of neurons in the brain that contribute to memory loss.
How to store and enjoy walnuts
As is true of most nuts, walnuts can turn rancid over time, because of their oil content.
Whether shelled or not, they should be stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator or freezer.
As far as eating walnuts, the possibilities are endless. Use them in salads, as a snack, over ice cream, cottage cheese or yogurt. Add them to cereal and bake them into muffins and bread.
One especially tasty way to use these nuts is to incorporate them into a pesto sauce with basil, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice… it’s great over summertime pasta!
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Dietary supplementation of walnuts improves memory deficits and learning skills in transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease — Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease