Joe Vinson, Ph.D. explains:
"Walnuts rank above peanuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios and other nuts. A handful of walnuts contain almost twice as much antioxidants as an equivalent amount of any other commonly consumed nut. But unfortunately, people don't eat a lot of them. This study suggests that consumers should eat more walnuts as part of a healthy diet."
Nuts in general contain plenty of high-quality protein that can substitute for meats for example. They contain a multitude of vitamins and minerals, dietary fibers and are dairy and gluten free. Regular consumption of small amounts (a few nuts a day) of walnuts or peanut butter with decreases risk of heart disease, certain kinds of cancer, gallstones, Type 2 diabetes, and other health problems.
"There's another advantage in choosing walnuts as a source of antioxidants. The heat from roasting nuts generally reduces the quality of the antioxidants. People usually eat walnuts raw or unroasted, and get the full effectiveness of those antioxidants."
Walnuts roasting on an open fire next holiday season?
Despite all the previous research, scientists until now had not compared both the amount and quality of antioxidants found in different nuts, Vinson said. He filled that knowledge gap by analyzing antioxidants in nine different types of nuts: walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias, and pecans. Walnuts had the highest levels of antioxidants.
In 2003, the FDA recognized the benefits of nuts and their role in heart disease prevention by approving a health claim for 7 kinds of nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts). These seven nuts were approved as they are the only kinds that contain less than 4 grams of saturated fats per 50 grams.
Nuts in general are high in calories, so moderation is the key. The best approach is to reap the health benefits of eating walnuts but not add excessive calories to your daily intake. Therefore, instead of just adding walnuts to your current diet, eat them in replacement of foods that are high in saturated fats (such as cheese and meat) and limit your intake of these tasty treats to the recommended 1.5 oz per day. That is about 20 walnut halves.
Nuts account for barely 8% of the daily antioxidants in the average person's diet. The form of vitamin E found in walnuts is somewhat unusual, and particularly beneficial. Instead of having most of its vitamin E present in the alpha-tocopherol form, walnuts provide an unusually high level of vitamin E in the form of gamma-tocopherol. Particularly in studies on the cardiovascular health of men, this gamma-tocopherol form of vitamin E has been found to provide significant protection from heart problems.
Sources: The American Chemical Society and Nutrition Data