In Shakespeare’s great work, Hamlet, he wrote: “I could live in a walnut shell and feel like the King of the universe.” Although we think a walnut shell’s likely too small to set up home in, Shakespeare’s onto something – inside a walnut is a universe full of health benefits!
These nuts are packed full of good fats, minerals, and vitamins thought to support your mood and give you a glow.1 Evidence also suggests these brain-shaped kernels are also good for your mental performance.2
In this piece, we’ll examine all of the walnuts’ astonishing health benefits. We’ll then advise how you can include more walnuts in your diet and give the lowdown on the perfect portion size, as well as warn you of any side effects.
What are walnuts?
Walnuts are the edible drupe of the walnut tree, which means they’re technically a seed. Although delicious, walnuts are a hard nut to crack – and the traditional nutcracker was invented to allow access to the sweet kernel within the hard shell.
Health benefits of walnuts
Walnuts aren’t just delicious – they have a wide range of health benefits, including:
Walnuts contain polyphenols, a potent antioxidant that protects against chronic inflammation; something which causes a wide range of illnesses.3,4 Walnuts have the most considerable antioxidant content of any nut, and can help to prevent oxidative stress which contributes to ageing and disease.5,6,7
Support heart health
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for keeping the heart healthy and free of disease.8 Wonderfully, walnuts contain more omega-3 fatty acids than any other nut. Even better, one scientific study showed that consuming the particular kind of omega-3s found within walnuts (known as alpha-linolenic acid) is positively correlated with better heart health later in life.9
Good bacteria booster
Emerging science is proving just how important healthy gut flora is for physical health throughout the entire body.10 One study found that eating a small number of walnuts every day can improve gut health.11
If you’re on a diet, you may be thinking of skipping walnuts because of their calorie content – but you’d be missing a trick. Scientific studies have found that walnuts improve feelings of fullness and help people resist the temptation of less healthy snacks.12
Better brain function
Evidence suggests that walnuts help to reduce inflammation in the brain and enhance cognitive function.13
How to include more walnuts in your diet
Like many other nuts and seeds, walnuts can simply be chopped and chucked on dishes you already love as a new textural element that’s full of nutrients.
We should all look to include more walnuts in our diet, considering they’re jam-packed with vitamin E, folic acid, vitamin B6, and many more minerals.14
Here are our favourite ways to enjoy more walnuts:
- Add ground walnuts to mince to enjoy some brain-boosting nutrients while tucking into chilli or Bolognese
- Enjoy with yoghurt and apple, or another fruit, for an energising snack
- Sprinkle on your breakfast – you’d be surprised how well walnuts complement avocado toast and poached eggs (they're also beautiful with porridge)
- Crumble on salads to add a refreshing crunch
- Bake inside cakes or breads to reap the health benefits of walnuts while indulging in your favourite baked goods
- Add to ice cream for a decadent dessert
Walnuts side effects
Walnuts are an allergen which can cause mild irritation of the mouth and throat or anaphylactic shock in those severely allergic.15 Those with pecan and hazelnut allergies are more likely to be allergic to walnuts.16
Walnuts have been known to cause bloating in individuals with sensitivities.17
Last updated: 2 March 2021
Author: Bhupesh Panchal
- Joined Holland & Barrett: April 2019
- Qualifications: Masters Degree in Toxicology, BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry
Bhupesh started his career as a clinical toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products. After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.
Bhupesh specialises in vitamins & minerals nutrition, health benefits & safety of botanicals and traditional herbal medicines.
In his spare time, Bhupesh likes to cycle and has been learning to speak Korean for several years.
Author: Bhupesh Panchal