If you are looking for an easy way to boost the vitamin content of your diet, give nuts a try. They have long since been recognized for their nutritional value as a source of  polyunsaturated fats, good protein, and antioxidants.  There are so many fantastic nuts to eat, you shouldn’t limit yourself to just one type. Pistachios, almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, and macadamias are just a few! For this article, we will focus on walnuts.

A serving of walnuts is going to be 1 oz, or roughly a handful. (I’m talking about walnuts without the shells) This would be about 1/4 cup shelled halves or pieces OR 12-14 halves. A serving has about 18g of fat and 190 calories. Don’t panic. I admit, they are high in fat and calories. This is exactly why you have to be careful when eating nuts, any kind of nuts. However, for people who train HARD and need concentrated calories (especially the kind that can travel in the car and gym bag), nuts are a very strategic, health RICH food.

Walnuts are the only nut to be a significant source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids. Typically these fatty acids are derived from fish. Omega-3’s are essential fatty acids (that means they have to come from the diet) and known to reduce inflammation.  Research has suggested that omega-3’s may also help reduce the risk of some chronic diseases. You definitely want a diet rich in omega 3’s. Because walnuts are a plant food, and not animal based, there is NO CHOLESTEROL. There isn’t cholesterol in any nut. They are also naturally low in sodium.

I mentioned earlier that nuts are also a good source of antioxidants. Research has suggested that antioxidants may help protect against some cancers, especially those related to the aging process.  As reported in the Spring 2011 volume of SCAN’s Pulse

A 2010 study2 investigating the antioxidant activity of different dry fruits found walnuts to exhibit the best antioxidant properties  Additional research3 testing 1113 different foods for antioxidant levels reported walnuts rank second only to blackberries in terms of antioxidant content  Ellagic acid and gamma tocopherol, a form of vitamin E, are two antioxidants that are thought to have anticarcinogenic properties; both are found in walnuts  Melatonin, an antioxidant known for its sleep regulating properties is also naturally found in walnuts  Research, led by melatonin expert Russel Reiter, PhD4, published in the September 2005 issue of Nutrition: The International Journal of Applied and Basic Nutritional Sciences, reported the calculated concentrations of melatonin in walnuts was 3 5 +/- 1 0ng/g.

I have always been a proponent of using melatonin to help with sleep, but I was not aware that it was an antioxidant! It’s like a bonus!

For those who may prefer to focus on a more vegetarian type of diet, nuts can be a great way to incorporate protein, while adding additional fiber. Fiber helps you feel full and is also beneficial to controlling blood sugar levels. (and they are gluten-free!)

If you happen to like reading research and getting more of the clinical details, you can read more here. Be sure to look for new recipes on the site that use walnuts. 🙂

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