Why Are Walnuts Good For My Heart?

Walnut Heart

Eating walnuts as part of a healthy diet may decrease your risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death globally.

Walnuts help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and decrease blood pressure, two of the major risk factors for heart disease.1,2 They are also a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. Walnuts contain 2.5 grams of ALA per ounce.

Research has found that omega-3 fatty acids may decrease the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) in those with high cholesterol.3

Inflammation plays a major role in the development of atherosclerosis.4 Finally, when eaten as part of a Mediterranean dietary pattern (a diet rich in fish, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, olive oil and nuts, legumes and beans) walnuts may lower risk of both heart disease and stroke. A recent study shows that, among persons at high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts, including walnuts, reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events.5

SOURCES:

  1. FDA approved claim: Supportive 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 diseas. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, March 2004. One ounce of walnuts provides 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.
  2. Kris-Etherton P. Walnuts decrease risk of cardiovascular disease: a summary of efficacy and biologic mechanisms. J Nutr. 2014; 10: 39:2S-8S.
  3. Zhao G, Etherton TD, Martin KR, et al. Dietary alpha-linolenic acid reduces inflammatory and lipid cardiovascular risk factors in hypercholesterolemic men and women. J Nutr 2004; 134: 2991-2997.
  4. Estruch R, Ros E, Salas-Salvado J, et al. Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet. N Engl J. Med. 2013; 368: 1279-90.
  5. According to the study referenced above, among persons at high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events.
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