Top Three Reasons Walnuts Are Good For Your Heart

By Nancy Houston Miller, RN, BSN, FAHA, FPCNA
Back to Resources

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States and worldwide.(1)

A healthy dietary pattern is known to help prevent and treat heart disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends including four and a half or more cups of fruits and vegetables daily, two or more servings of fish per week, fiber-rich whole grains, and four or more servings a week of nuts, legumes and seeds to help lower one’s risk of heart disease.(2) Adding walnuts is an easy and delicious way to make meals more heart healthy.(3) In fact, AHA has even certified walnuts as a heart-healthy food through its “Heart-Check mark” program.

Here are a few reasons why including walnuts in your diet is a smart choice for you and your heart.

  • For over two decades, walnuts have been shown to improve cardiovascular risk factors by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol by 9-16%, and diastolic blood pressure by 2-3 mmHg.(4) These two risk factors are major contributors to heart disease risk.
  • They are the only nuts that are a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based essential omega-3 fatty acid that has positive anti-inflammatory effects.(5) Research has found that omega-3 fatty acids may decrease the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) in those with high cholesterol.(5) Walnuts contain 2.5 grams of ALA per ounce.
  • When walnuts are part of an overall eating pattern such as the Mediterranean diet (a diet rich in fish, vegetables, fruits, olive oil and nuts), your risk of heart disease and stroke may be significantly reduced. 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.(6)

So how do you include walnuts in a healthy diet to help lower your risk of heart disease?

  • Include walnuts in meals and snacks, along with a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol.
  • Choose walnuts to snack on four to five times per week. Just a handful of nuts (1 ounce) will make you feel satisfied.
  • Sprinkle chopped walnuts on salads, vegetables, in dips, or as part of mixed dishes.
  • Try new recipes using walnuts by going to the California Walnuts recipe page to see how great chefs have used walnuts in heart-healthy recipes.

Always store your walnuts in the refrigerator or freezer so they stay fresh. And start to think of walnuts as part of a heart-healthy eating plan – not just for special occasions. Remember that when you include walnuts as part of a healthy eating plan, you are lowering your risk of heart disease.(3) Choose a healthy eating plan such as the Mediterranean pattern which includes a daily intake of nuts.

Sources

  1. Roger VL, Go AS, Lloyd-Jones DM, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics 2012 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation 2012; 125: e2-220.
  2. Lloyd-Jones DM, Hong Y, Labarthe D, et al. Defining and setting national goals for cardiovascular health promotion and disease reduction. Circulation. 2010; 121: 586-613.
  3. 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 disease; 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.
  4. Kris-Etherton P. Walnuts decrease risk of cardiovascular disease: a summary of efficacy and biologic mechanisms. J Nutr. 2014; 10.39:2S-8S.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
Generated with Avocode.Generated with Avocode.