You can prevent diabetes, hypertension, Alzheimer’s and certain cancers by incorporating walnuts into your diet, reports Steven Pratt, M.D., author of "Superfoods RX: Fourteen Foods that Will Change Your Life." This powerful nut is low in cholesterol and sodium and high in a host of nutrients that will keep you looking and feeling young. Best of all, walnuts are easy to fit into your diet, with no cooking involved.
Walnuts contain fat, but the good kind. A 1-ounce serving of walnuts has over 16 grams of fat, but 4 grams are monounsaturated fat and 14 grams are polyunsaturated. MayoClinic.com states mono- and polyunsaturated fats reduce cholesterol levels and lessen your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes. Walnuts are particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid especially beneficial for your heart. Stick to a handful of these nuts a day because their high fat content also makes them high in calories.
Walnuts pack a powerful punch of essential minerals. They contain familiar minerals like calcium to keep your bones and teeth strong, and iron, which is especially important for women of child-bearing age who lose blood and iron through menstruation. These powerful nuts provide you with magnesium, which you rely on to get you out of bed in the morning because it pulls energy from your muscles, and zinc, which keeps your immune system healthy. They also contain lesser-known, but equally important trace minerals, such as manganese and copper. Both get rid of free radicals that damage your cells, help form connective tissue and keep your immune system healthy.
When you’re itching for an afternoon nap, but need to keep plowing through your work, reach for a handful of walnuts. Walnuts are rich in B vitamins, including thiamine, riboflavin, B-6, B-12, pantothenic acid, niacin and folate. B vitamins help perk you up by getting energy from the foods you eat. They are also needed to form red blood cells, which deliver oxygen throughout your body. Without enough B vitamins, you are at risk for developing anemia, a condition that can leave you feeling weak and tired. If you plan to have children in the near future, walnuts provide you with almost 30 percent the recommended dietary intake of folate, which prevents birth defects.
Walnuts keep your heart in tip-top shape because of the phytonutrients they contain. Phytosterols, or plant sterols, keep your intestines from absorbing cholesterol and lower your cholesterol levels, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. One ounce of black walnuts contains 31 milligrams of phytosterols. Walnuts also have about 2 grams of dietary fiber. Fiber lowers cholesterol levels and prevents diabetes by blocking sugar from being absorbed into your bloodstream. This nutrient also keeps your weight in check by making you feel full longer, helping you to eat fewer calories throughout the day.
Michelle Fisk began writing professionally in 2011. She has been published in the "Physician and Sports Medicine Journal." Her expertise lies in the fields of exercise physiology and nutrition. Fisk holds a Master of Science in kinesiology from Marywood University.