Walnuts are good for on-the-go wellness

Published 9:08 am Friday, April 12, 2013

Column: Dietitian Speaks, by Amy Pleimling

If you are looking for a delicious, nutritious and convenient snack walnuts are the perfect choice.
The nutrition facts

Walnuts have a unique fat profile when compared to other nuts. Walnuts are mostly comprised of heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats, including the essential alpha-linolenic omega-3 fatty acid. Just an ounce of walnuts provides 2.5 grams of alpha-linolenic acids, meeting the daily recommendation. This high-fat, high-energy food is also a good source of protein, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium.

Amy Pleimling

Amy Pleimling

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Heart health

A Harvard Public School study published in the 2009 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that heart-healthy diets supplemented with walnuts may help improve cardiovascular risk factors, specifically lowering total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Including walnuts in the diet may also decrease inflammation and oxidative stress due to the high antioxidant content. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a health claim for walnuts in March of 2004:“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.” The key here is to lower your saturated fat so you are replacing that bad fat with the healthy fat of walnuts and not increasing overall calories (that would lead to weight gain).



According to a Harvard study that focused on nut and peanut butter consumption and type-2 diabetes risk, women who ate one-ounce portions of nuts, such as walnuts or peanut butter, five times or more per week may lower risk of developing type-2 diabetes compared to women who rarely or never ate nuts.


Weight management

Controlling appetite is key to weight management. Walnuts are the perfect choice for curbing appetite since they are an excellent source of heart-healthy fat and a good source of fiber and protein.

Try counting out 14 walnut halves and place them in snack-size bags to keep portion sizes in check. Researchers noted in many studies that participants did not gain weight when walnuts were substituted for other fats in reduced-calorie diets.


Use and storage

• Mix dried fruit and walnuts together for a simple snack.

• Add chopped walnuts to the top of a vegetable pizza.

• Toss chopped walnuts in a salad with blueberries, strawberries, feta cheese and a light vinaigrette.

• Sprinkle walnut halves on oatmeal.

• Make a yogurt parfait with chopped walnuts and fresh berries.

• Coat fish or poultry with chopped walnuts and herbs.

• Include walnuts in side dishes such as brown rice, quinoa or couscous.

• Top pasta dishes with walnuts.

For optimal flavor and freshness, store walnuts in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. If storing them longer than one month, place in the freezer.


The numbers

One ounce or about 1/4 cup (14 halves): 190 calories, 18 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 2.5 g monounsaturated fat, 13 g polyunsaturated fat, 1 mg sodium, 125 mg potassium, 4 g total carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 4 g protein.

NuVal Nutrional Scoring System Score equals 82 out of 100. Higher the NuVal score, the better the nutrition.

I often get questions about nuts and why I would recommend them because they are so high in calories and fat. I hope you can see the benefits these super foods (nuts in general) can bring to your health. Knowing and understanding that nuts are high in calories is important so you use portion control and count them into your daily calories. This can help you maintain and achieve a healthy weight.


Amy Pleimling is the dietitian for the Hy-Vee grocery store in Albert Lea. This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.