All About Walnuts - From History To Health

The Juglandaceae are a family of the plant kingdom known commonly as the Walnut family and the oldest tree food known to man.  The walnuts we eat (Juglans Regia) are of the old world.  They originated from ancient Persia (Iran) and across the southeast of Europe (Balkans).  Through trade, they later became known as the English or common walnut.  Nestled in the lush valley of Kyrgyzstan’s Chatkal mountain range is 11,000 hectares of natural walnut trees, making it the largest walnut grove on earth. 

In the Bulgarian tradition (where we source our walnuts) the walnut tree is viewed as a world tree, a symbol of new life and one's legacy left behind.  They symbolize intelligence, wisdom, knowledge, and inspiration.  Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses walnuts to tonify the kidneys, nourish the blood and treat sexual dysfunction.

Walnuts are the wind-pollinated seeds of the walnut tree.  They have a distinctive taste, are rich in anti-antioxidants and a good source of protein, fiber, and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals). Walnuts contain the highest quantity of plant-based Omega 3 healthy fats (in the form of Alpha linoleic Acid) than any other nut.

Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), Walnuts nuts have a very low glycaemic load, are low in cholesterol and sodium and have a macronutrient ratio of 83% Fat, 8% protein and 9% carbohydrate (the majority of this being in the form of fiber).  They are a good source of the minerals - Manganese, Copper, Magnesium, Phosphorus, zinc, and iron, are rich in B vitamins and are a good source of Vitamin E and various Polyphenols. (1,2)

A general serving (and the values below) of walnuts is around 28g - just one small handful and 96% of our RDI of Omega 3 fatty acids.

Calories: 183 kcal

Protein: 4.3 grams

Fat: 18.3 grams

  • Saturated Fat 7g
  • Monounsaturated Fat 5g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
  • Omega-3 2542mg (96% of the RDI)
  • Omega-6 10666mg

Carbs: 3.8 grams (of which 1.9g is from Fibre)

Manganese: 1.0mg (48%)

Copper: 0.4mg (22%)

Magnesium: 44.2mg (11%)

Phosphorus: 96.9mg (10%)

Zinc: 0.9mg (6%)

Iron: 0.8mg (5%)

Potassium: 123mg (4%)

Calcium: 27.4mg (3%)

Vitamin B6: 0.2mg (8%)

Folate (B9): 27.4 mcg (7%)

Vitamin B1: 0.1mg (6%)

Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol): 0.8mg (4%)

Vitamin B5: 0.2mg (2%)

Vitamin B3: 0.3mg (2%)

Omega 3 abundance

There are 3 main types of Omega 3 fatty acids that have an array of health benefits and a type of fat we want to consume in abundance.  Walnuts contain high amounts of the plant-based source of Omega 3 fats called Alpha linoleic acid (ALA), the other two (DHA and EPA) are found naturally in marine sources like oily fish and algae (nori, spirulina, etc).

ALA (found predominantly in nuts and seeds) is a true “essential” Omega 3 as our body cannot make it on its own.  Our body does not make EPA and DHA but can convert a small amount of the ALA we consume in our diet.  It is best to consume these vital nutrients from the food we eat and quality supplements. ( 3)

Plant compounds

Walnuts contain bioactive plant compounds called polyphenols.  They are rich in antioxidants and are found predominantly in the walnut’s papery brown skins. ( 4)

Four of these plant compounds worth mentioning are:

  • Ellagic acid
  • Catechin (a flavonoid)
  • Melatonin (a neurohormone)
  • Phytic acid, Phytate, is a beneficial antioxidant however it can reduce to absorption of minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium from the digestive tract when consumed together.It is therefore known as an anti-nutrient, but only an issue for those not consuming a balanced diet and one high in phytates. (5, 6, 7)

Heart-healthy

Walnuts contain twice as many antioxidants than any other nut.  ( 8) This activity comes from the Vitamin E present as well as Melatonin and plant compounds called Polyphenols.  ( 9)

The Melatonin present in walnuts is not only a powerful antioxidant but also helps to induce sleep and regulate sleep patterns. ( 10

The Omega 3’s, antioxidants and magnesium are particularly beneficial in lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, lowering blood pressure, combating oxidative stress and reducing inflammation.  Inflammation is at the root of many chronic conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and more. ( 11, 12, 13, 14)

Brain food

The Omega 3 fatty acids in walnuts are neuroprotective, help with depression and improve brain function. (15, 16)

Even resembling the human brain, these mighty nuts have been shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain through the presence of healthy fats, polyphenols, and Vitamin E levels.  Eating walnuts has been shown to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and improving mental flexibility and memory.  ( 17)

The information in our articles is NOT intended to replace the one on one support of a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.

By Linda Ross ICNT
Integrative Nutritionist
Body, Mind and Eating Coach
Wholefood Chef 

  1. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3138/2
  2. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3690?n1=%7BQv%3D1%7D&fgcd=&man=&lfacet=&count=&max=&sort=&qlookup=&offset=&format=Abridged&new=&measureby=&ds=&Qv=1&qt=&qp=&qa=&qn=&q=&ing=
  3. https://alwaysomega3s.com/learn/epa-dha-ala-omega-3s
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24444946
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19774556
  6. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/phytic-acid-101
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3341259
  8. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110327191040.htm
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26882685
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15979282
  11. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-walnuts#section3
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19880586
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19458020
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21677123
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4350958/
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22048906
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24500933

 

MORE ABOUT LINDA:

Linda is currently teaching and consulting Globally. Specializing in identifying the underlying factors of chronic stress and related conditions, using clinical and holistic techniques. Blending ancient wisdom that is backed up by the modern science of nutrition to nourish the body and support people of all ages in understanding and transforming their health and wellbeing.

Links to connect with Linda:
www.nourishingways.co.nz
Instagram: @nourishing_ways

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