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“Fat” is a word with multiple meanings. Despite the differences between body fat and dietary fat, over the years, people have simply been told they are both bad. But what many don’t know is that not all fats are bad, after all. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are a type of polyunsaturated fats, for instance, are essential for a healthy heart, brain, immune system, and even for overall mortality. Omega-3 fatty acids also ensure a healthy communication between nerve impulses and the transfer of nutrients through our bloodstream. Now, although these essential fats are so crucial for our body and mind, we need to be mindful of the fact that our body can’t make these on its own. The only way we can fulfill our daily requirement of this fatty acid is by eating/drinking foods and beverages that are rich in omega-3.
A handful of walnuts
Fortunately, there are many foods that are good to great sources of omega-3, including avocado, salmon, mackerel, flaxseeds, and of course, walnuts – our favorite food to add the power of 3 (omega-3) to our everyday meals. Want to know why? Read on.
The only tree nut that’s an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid
There are three main types of omega-3 – alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) (found in plant-based foods), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (found in fatty fish). Walnut is the only tree nut that’s an excellent source of plant-based omega 3 ALA – a handful of walnuts (28 gms) gives our body 2.5 gm of ALA. With a majority of India’s population being vegetarian, one of the best ways to get omega-3 ALA into your diet is to start with walnuts. Just a handful of walnuts offers nutrients to meet the recommended daily intake of plant-based omega-3 ALA (1.6 g/day for men and 1.1 g/day for women).1
Walnuts support heart health
Caring for your heart is always important. Diet is a controllable risk factor for heart disease, and walnuts and other foods that provide good fats are smart choices.Walnuts have long been recognized as a heart-healthy food2, with decades of scientific research showing how eating walnuts affect various factors related to heart health, such as cholesterol, blood pressure, inflammation, and blood vessel function.
Good for brain health
The brain-like appearance of walnut is nature’s hint to us that there’s a deep connection between our brains and these nuts. Research suggests walnuts bear the potential to not only boost our mood but also our memory.3,4 The plant-based omega-3 ALA in walnuts may reduce oxidative stress and inflammation – two drivers of cognitive decline.5
Walnuts may not make you gain body fat
Walnuts don’t have a negative effect on our body weight and composition. In fact, they may play a role in helping us achieve ideal body weight if consumed as part of a healthy daily diet. How, you may ask? The omega-3 and other essential nutrients in walnuts may aid in keeping you full for longer and suppressing unnecessary food cravings. These appetite-controlling powers indirectly help in managing weight. 6
Versatility in cooking
You can work walnuts into your diet in many more ways than one can think of. These wonder nuts can be eaten as is, work as a meat alternative, turned into butter and used on your bread or chapati, ground into flour, and used as a healthy substitute for maida, or even be used as a crunchy, flavor-packed substitute for croutons in your salads.
Not many are aware, but walnuts can also be ground in a fine paste and used to thicken the consistency of any curry or soup. If you’re not convinced by the versatility of walnuts yet, try chopping them and coating meat with its mixture before barbequing/baking, and see the culinary magic that unfolds.
Walnut Butter, Milk and Flour
Flavor and Texture Bomb!
Don’t underestimate the flavor and texture of walnuts. Pop a couple into your mouth, and mild and earthy flavors come storming into your tastebuds. What follows is a beautiful crunch, and a pleasant creamy taste lingers after. Another highlight of walnuts is the fact that even though they have a flavor profile of their own when paired with a particular ingredient, it soaks in the latter’s flavor too to create a unique one. They are best paired with bananas, chocolate, cinnamon, and even dates.
These are a few of our reasons to favor walnuts over other omega-3 rich foods for our daily requirement of essential fatty acids. If you agree with us, do join our ‘Power of 3’ campaign, which encourages people to share information on omega-3 and its importance with their loved ones – their way of helping create a healthy, happy community.
1Dietary reference intakes for energy, carbohydrate, fiber, fat, fatty acids, cholesterol, protein, and amino acids (Macronutrients) (2005) NAS. IOM. Food and Nutrition Board.
2Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces of walnuts per day, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet and not resulting in increased caloric intake, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. (FDA) One ounce of walnuts offers 18g of total fat, 2.5g of monounsaturated fat, 13g of polyunsaturated fat including 2.5g of alpha-linolenic acid – the plant-based omega-3.
3Pribis P. Effects of Walnut Consumption on Mood in Young Adults-A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2016;8(11):668. doi:10.3390/nu8110668
4 Freitas-Simoes TM, Wagner M, Samieri C, et al. Consumption of Nuts at Midlife and Healthy Aging in Women. J Aging Res. 2020; Article ID 5651737. doi.org/10.1155/2020/5651737
5Carey AN, Fisher DR, Joseph JA, Shukitt-Hale B The ability of walnut extract and fatty acids to protect against the deleterious effects of oxidative stress and inflammation in hippocampal cells. doi.org/10.1179/1476830512Y.0000000023
6Stevenson JL, Paton CM, Cooper JA. Hunger and satiety responses to high-fat meals after high polyunsaturated fat diet: a randomized trial. Nutrition. 2017;41:14-23. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2017.03.008