Characterised by an earthy yet sweet taste, walnuts offer more than a crunchy addition to your meals.
The unique combination of nutrients found in the small snack supports their effects on health outcomes.
Walnuts are the only tree nut to contain a mix of plant-based essential omega-3s, protein, fibre, antioxidants, minerals and B vitamins.
This nutritional profile means the small foods could protect your heart as you age, according to Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study.
The research, partially supported by the California Walnut Commission, looked at data from 3,023 otherwise healthy black and white men and women between the ages of 18 and 30.
Self-reported diet history was taken three times throughout the study at baseline, year seven, and year 20.
Furthermore, physical and clinical measurements were taken at multiple exams spanning 30 years.
The participants were put into three groups based on their nut consumption: walnut consumers, other nut consumers, or no nut consumers.
The data showed that around 352 of the study subjects consumed the heart-healthy snacks.
What’s more, the participants ate on average only 21 grams of walnuts per day.
However, even this small amount was linked to an improved heart disease risk profile.
Those who ate the “easy and accessible” snack had lower body mass index, lower waist circumference, lower blood pressure and lower levels of fat in their blood.
Furthermore, walnut consumers also had significantly lower fasting blood sugar levels.
Lyn M. Steffen, Professor of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, said: “Walnut eaters seem to have a unique body phenotype that carries with it other positive impacts on health like better diet quality, especially when they start eating walnuts from young into middle adulthood – as risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, obesity, and diabetes elevates.”
While other nuts also offer some promising health benefits, walnuts seem to be especially potent for the heart.
Steffen added: “Nut consumers showed an advantage in relation to diet quality, but walnut consumers appear to have a better heart disease risk factor profile than the other groups, even after accounting for overall diet quality.
“The surprising, healthy shifts in overall dietary pattern of walnut consumers suggests walnuts may act as a bridge or ‘carrier food’ for helping people form healthy nutrition and lifestyle habits throughout life.”
While the research offers some positive findings, observational studies cannot support cause and effect conclusions.