10 reasons the walnut is the new supernut

Sunday, 1 June 2014 - 6:30am IST | Agency: dna

It may have been touted as the diva of new age eating but the walnut has historical virtues dating back to the 1st century BCE. Over the years, researchers have discovered many more health benefits of this unique nut. Here's why you should include it in your regular diet:

1. Culinary historian Andrew Smith notes that Greek physician Dioscorides, of the 1st century CE, records in his surviving work Materia Medica that walnuts when eaten with rue and figs counteracted poisons. Taken with honey, salt and onions, the concoction would heal those bitten "by dogs or men."

2. Beauty junkies and trichologists will be delighted at another of Dioscorides discoveries: when walnut kernels were burned and ground with wine and oil and applied to an infant's head, the child's hair would grow abundantly and bald spots would disappear. Research, of course, has moved forward many centuries now.

3. Roman biographer Plutarch reported that walnuts were good for insomniacs. Modern day scientists have also determined that walnuts contain melatonin and researchers believe that it may play a role in reducing insomnia.

4. The kernel of a walnut evokes the picture of the brain. This is no idle imagery. English naturalist William Coles concluded that it had "the perfect Signature of the Head and is very profitable for the brain."

5. Modern-day research reveals that walnuts are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) like oleic acid and an excellent source of all important omega-3 fatty acids like alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

6. In 2003, the FDA recognised the benefits of nuts. It further endorsed the health benefits of walnuts by approving the following health claim in 2004: "Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 42.5 gm of walnuts per day...may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease."

7. Walnuts are proven to be beneficial to those suffering from diabetes. A walnut-enriched diet improves endothelium-dependent vasodilatation in type 2 diabetic individuals, suggesting a potential reduction in overall cardiac risk. Omega-3 fatty acids from walnuts can help lower triglycerides and apoproteins, and raise HDL.

8. Everyone is aware of the importance of antioxidants in our lives. Walnuts contain several antioxidants, including selenium, melatonin, gamma tocopherol (a form of vitamin E) and several polyphenols. In a 2006 study, 1,113 different foods were tested and walnuts ranked second to blackberries in terms of antioxidant content.

9. A study examining the levels of antioxidants in various foods reports that a handful of walnuts have significantly more phenolics (antioxidants) than a glass of apple juice (117 mg), a bar of milk chocolate (205 mg), or a glass of red wine (372 mg).

10. In addition to antioxidants and essential ALA/omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts contain 3-4% water, 15-20% protein and 10% of your daily value of magnesium and phosphorus. The mineral content includes iron and zinc, sodium, selenium, calcium, potassium and copper. Vitamins E and C are also found in walnuts.

(Source: The California Walnut Commission)

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