One of the basic tenets of optimal health is to eat real food. Nuts certainly fit into this category and, as a bonus, are a convenient, ready-to-eat snack that you can carry in a purse or backpack or stash in a desk drawer at work.
Two of my favorite nuts are macadamias and pecans, in large part because they’re high in healthy fats but relatively low in carbohydrates and protein, which most Americans consume in excess.
However, you really can’t go wrong when eating a variety of nuts, assuming you eat them in moderation. Walnuts are another top choice that have been making headlines due to their numerous beneficial effects on health.
Daily Walnuts May Improve Overall Diet Quality
Researchers from the Yale University Prevention Research Center and colleagues had more than 100 study participants add two ounces of walnuts to their diets daily.1
The participants ate the walnuts for six months then removed the daily walnuts for another six months. Half of each group also received counseling about healthy nutrition, including how to offset the additional calories consumed by eating walnuts.
Several interesting results were found from this one simple dietary change.
For starters, the participants, who were at increased risk of developing diabetes because they were either overweight or had elevated blood sugar or blood pressure levels, had improvements in blood vessel wall (epithelial) function, and lower levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol.
Improvements were also seen in other heart variables, such as blood pressure and body fat, but similar improvements were also seen in the group excluding almonds, which means the walnuts may not have been responsible for the heart benefits.
What was remarkable, however, was a significant boost in diet quality among the participants eating walnuts. And despite the added walnuts, none of the participants gained weight. David L. Katz, founding director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, told Forbes:2
“Our primary outcome was diet quality, and that differed significantly between walnuts-added and walnuts-excluded … The implication of that is that (a) walnuts displace less nutritious foods when added to the daily diet; and (b) the net effect is a significant improvement in overall diet quality.
… The take-away here is: eat walnuts routinely, improve your overall diet quality – and apparently, without risk of weight gain … That is because though high in calories, walnuts are very satiating. That high ratio of satiety-to-calories makes them helpful in appetite control.”