Don't you think the shape of walnuts is similar to the shape of the brain? And these weird-shaped nuts are indeed a great source of nutrients that can benefit our brains in various ways. But not just the brain, walnuts confer benefits to our whole body. Walnuts are a true wonder of nature. Let’s dive deep into the blog and discover the wonders of walnuts!
Walnuts are frequently used in baked goods such as cookies, muffins, brownies, etc. Our diet frequently contains walnuts which have long been known for their nutritional benefits. They are a fantastic source of beneficial nutrients and good fats. Walnuts are widely regarded for their fatty acid profile, which has been associated with various positive biological traits and health benefits. They have been associated with benefits on blood pressure, gastrointestinal and heart health, and even male fertility.
These nutrient powerhouses can prevent cancer growth and maintain healthy brain function as you age. Many groups of compounds are found in walnuts, including phenolic acids, saponins, quinones, alkaloids, flavonoids, coumarin, tannic acid, and polysaccharides 1. Let's look at the significance of each of these compounds.
- Phenolic acids: It is a type of phytochemical, which acts as a potential antioxidant and prevents damage to cells caused due to free-radicals 2.
- Saponins: It is a naturally occurring compound which has been shown to display anti-inflammatory, vasoprotective and antimicrobial properties 3.
- Alkaloids: Alkaloids have been shown to produce antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antitumor activity and antimitotic activity 4.
- Flavonoids: Flavonoids possess several medicinal benefits, including anticancer, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties. They also have neuroprotective and cardio-protective effects 5.
- Coumarin: They constitute an important class of pharmacological agents possessing a range of different physiological activities including anti-cancer, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammation, anti-HIV, anti-coagulant, anti-bacterial, analgesic and comparative immune-modulation 6.
- Tannic acid: It has antioxidant properties and may promote good health 7.
- Polysaccharides: The main functions of polysaccharides include providing structural support, storing energy, and cellular communications.
Walnuts also contain other bioactive substances, including vitamin E and polyphenols, and essential fatty acids. Walnuts are one of the most significant sources of polyphenols among popular meals and drinks; hence, their impact on human health is crucial.
What are the various health benefits that walnuts provide? Let us look at the scientifically proven health benefits of walnuts.
As we mentioned, walnuts are packed with nutrients which are specifically targeted for brain health.
Walnuts contain polyphenols, phytosterols and omega -3- all of which are linked to a reduction in age-related neuronal and cognitive deterioration. Polyphenols are involved in maintaining calcium homeostasis in the hippocampal and striatal regions of the brain, which is essential for primary and secondary memory functions. PUFAs are important in the formation, stability and fluidity of neuronal cell membranes in synaptic vesicle fusion and neurotransmitter signal transduction8.
A study conducted on walnuts observed that they do contain certain distinctive bioactive substances including melatonin in decent proportions, which is predominantly produced by the pineal gland of the brain and is essential for controlling circadian cycles 9. Melatonin deficiency has been related to cognitive impairment and dementia.
Walnut consumption has been shown to have beneficial effects on blood lipid profile, and daily consumption significantly reduced non-HDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein-B in healthy men and postmenopausal women. Some studies also observed that walnut supplementation improves endothelial function in hypercholesterolaemic and type 2 diabetic women and plays an important role in testicular steroidogenesis in males 10.
According to research, if your gut has a high concentration of health-promoting bacteria and other microorganisms (your gut microbiota), you are more likely to have a healthy gut and overall excellent health. But what you consume also has a big impact on your microbiota composition. Eating walnuts may be one way to promote a healthy gut.
One study found that consuming a walnut-enriched diet positively impacted the gut microbiome by enhancing good probiotics and butyric acid-producing bacteria. Another research stated that when the participants were consuming 1.5 ounces (around 42.5 gm) daily for eight weeks, their good bacteria increased in number. A gut imbalance in the gut microbiome and pathogenic overgrowth tends to increase the risk of obesity, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), autism and heart disease.
Another study showed that in tumour growth prevention walnut phytochemicals-melatonin and eicosapentaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid, act as membrane receptors and inhibit the uptake and metabolism of omega-6 linoleic acid, and stimulate inhibitory G-proteins (family of proteins that act as molecular switches inside cells) and decrease the synthesis of intracellular cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP). Decreased cAMP reduces the transfer of linoleic acid into cancer cells 11. The other added benefits of walnuts are alpha-linolenic acid(ALA), omega-3 fatty acids and 6-7% of dietary fibre 8.
Walnuts are rich in polyphenol ‘ellagitannins’, which are converted to compounds called urolithins by gut microbes. Urolithins are compounds with anti-inflammatory properties in your gut, which in one way help protect against colorectal cancer 12. More studies are needed to confirm the effects of walnuts against cancers.
Walnuts are very nutrient-dense nuts, which compared to the other nuts, have considerably more healthy omega-3 fats and higher antioxidant activity. Walnuts have many health advantages, such as lower inflammation and better risk factors for heart disease. Studies are still being performed to uncover the beneficial role of walnuts in cancer. The best way to consume walnuts is to soak them overnight as the raw ones contain antinutrients. The bottom line is that this functional food is good for your overall health.