3 Health Benefits of Walnuts

Want to help boost heart health, manage diabetes, or drop pounds? Consider the walnut.

holding a bowl of walnuts

Medically reviewed in August 2022

Updated on August 31, 2022

Looking to improve your health? Consider making a handful of walnuts one of your mainstay snacks. High in fiber, protein, and healthy fats, these versatile nuts—which are technically considered seeds—may help boost your cardiovascular health, lower your diabetes risk, and help keep your weight in check. Here’s how.

Walnuts and heart health
A 2021 study published in the journal Circulation found that older adults who ate about 1/2 cup of walnuts each day for two years showed reduced levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) “bad” cholesterol. Lower LDL numbers are associated with a diminished risk for heart disease and stroke.

For a separate analysis published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in 2020, researchers looked at inflammation in that same set of older adults. They found that 6 of 10 biomarkers (measures) of inflammation were “significantly reduced” in those who ate more walnuts. Many experts believe inflammation can damage your heart if left untreated.

You might not have to wait two whole years for the benefits of walnuts, however. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Nutrition tracked the health of people who ate the nuts versus those on a walnut-free diet for six weeks. Compared to eating no walnuts, regular consumption led to improvements in heart disease risk factors. The research authors theorized the change was likely caused by enriching gut bacteria that protect against elevated blood pressure and high cholesterol.

One reason why walnuts may be so good for your heart: They’re chock-full of healthy fats known as omega-3s—the same found in oily fish. But unlike fish, walnuts can be discreetly stashed in your bag for a quick snack break. According to the American Heart Association, eating 1.5 ounces of whole nuts each day is enough to reap their benefits. 

Try sprinkling walnuts onto your oatmeal or yogurt. If you’re using nut butter, consider spreading some on your apple slices or bananas for a sweet snack.

Walnuts and diabetes
The American Diabetes Association calls nuts a ‘superstar food’ because they’re rich in essential nutrients that promote overall good health, such as magnesium, fiber, and those omega-3 fatty acids. They can also help manage your hunger by keeping you satiated with healthy fats—great for people with diabetes. 

Those at risk of diabetes may benefit from adding walnuts to their diet, as well. In a 2018 analysis published in Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews, people who habitually ate walnuts had a lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes than those who didn’t eat them. 

Walnuts and weight loss
The hunger-management benefits of walnuts may aid in weight loss—and could provide extra advantages, too. One 2017 study published in Nutrition Journal compared weight loss results from people who ate a walnut-enriched, reduced-calorie diet to those who ate a reduced-calorie diet without walnuts. Both diets helped people feel full faster and drop pounds. But those who regularly ate walnuts had the added perks of lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels.

Looking for creative ways to add some walnuts to your diet? Try them in these delicious recipes:

Article sources open article sources

Walnuts.org. Omega-3 ALA. Accessed August 31, 2022.
Rajaram S, Cofán M, Sala-Vila A, et al. Effects of walnut consumption for 2 years on lipoprotein subclasses among healthy elders: findings from the WAHA randomized controlled trial. Circulation. 2021;144(13), 1083-1085.
Cofán M, Rajaram S, Sala-Vila A .Effects of 2-year walnut-supplemented diet on inflammatory biomarkers. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2020;76(19), 2282-2284.
Tindall AM, McLimans CJ, Petersen KS, et al. Walnuts and vegetable oils containing oleic acid differentially affect the gut microbiota and associations with cardiovascular risk factors: follow-up of a randomized, controlled, feeding trial in adults at risk for cardiovascular disease. The Journal of Nutrition. 2020;150(4), 806-817.
American Heart Association. Go Nuts (But just a little!). Page last reviewed: November 1, 2021.
Arab L, Dhaliwal SK, Martin CJ. Association between walnut consumption and diabetes risk in NHANES. Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews. 2018;34(7), e3031.
Hwang HJ, Liu Y, Kim HS, et al. Daily walnut intake improves metabolic syndrome status and increases circulating adiponectin levels: randomized controlled crossover trial. Nutrition Research and Practice. 2019;13(2), 105-114.
American Diabetes Association. What superstar foods are good for diabetes? Accessed August 31, 2022.
Rock CL, Flatt SW, Barkai HS, et al. Walnut consumption in a weight reduction intervention: effects on body weight, biological measures, blood pressure and satiety. Nutrition Journal. 2017;16(1), 1-10.
Bitok E, Rajaram S, Jaceldo-Siegl K, Oda, K. Effects of long-term walnut supplementation on body weight in free-living elderly: Results of a randomized controlled trial. Nutrients. 2018;10(9), 1317.

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