What are the health benefits of walnuts? Walnuts have had a bit of a renaissance in recent years, and there is a lot of focus upon their potential health benefits. There are not many health books or sites around these days that don’t make very good use of the humble walnut. There are many claims that walnuts are an amazing source of omega 3. Well, sadly this is only a half truth. They contain omega 3 in the form of ALA, which is very poorly converted by Human beings. See my blog post about omega 3 to get a better grasp of why this is an issue: https://www.themedicinalchef.co.uks-posts/understanding-dietary-omega-3/
Heart & circulation
Walnuts are a great food for heart health. They are rich in vitamin E, which is a natural anticoagulant (blood thinner of sorts). Eating foods rich in vitamin E may be protective against strokes and heart attacks, for the simple reason that they reduce excessive clotting. Vitamin E also plays a role in reducing the oxidation of lipid substances. This may be cholesterol or triglycerides that are moving around our body in the circulation. The oxidative damage of these two compounds form part of the process that leads to development of cardiovascular disease. This is because the oxidation process can begin to cause areas of inflammatory damage within the endothelium – the inner skin that lines the inside of our blood vessels. This inflammatory damage creates a cascade of normal natural repair mechanisms that can then lead to the embedding of fatty materials in to the vessel walls as materials such as fibrin get laid down and create a mesh that protrudes out into the lumen of the blood vessel, trapping such substances that are passing by. When this happens, the immune system responds and before you know it, a plaque has formed within the vessel wall.
Skin & immune health
These health benefits of walnuts are a result of walnuts being a rich source of the mineral zinc. Zinc is vital for immunity. This is because it is used by leukocytes (white blood cells) to code genes that regulate the way in which the cells respond to pathogens or diseased tissues that they encounter. This is why zinc has performed so well in clinical trials focusing on the common cold. It literally improves the way in which our immune system responds to pathogens. Aside from the obvious immunological support, colds and infections etc, additional zinc in the diet can be valuable in the fight against acne. Think about it. Acne is an active infection. If we support immunity in such a way, we can ensure the infection is dealt with faster.
Zinc has added benefits for skin health, especially if skin is excessively oily or excessively dry. This is because zinc relates the activity of the sebaceous glands. These oil secreting glands seem to respond very well to adequate levels of zinc in the diet. When skin is too dry or too oily, sufficient zinc will even out sebaceous secretions.