A Snacking Win for Women: Walnuts

For women who want an edge on wellness, eating the right foods can be simple, especially when you choose nutrient dense choices, like walnuts. Published health research reveals what makes walnuts a nutritious, heart-healthy1 food for most consumers, but certain areas of research stand out for women, including healthy aging, breast cancer, mental health and maternal health. Here’s what the latest science says:

Healthy Aging & Longevity: Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital discovered that women who ate at least two servings of walnuts per week (56g) during their late 50s and early 60s were more likely to age healthfully compared to those who did not eat nuts. This study defined “healthy aging” as longevity with sound mental health and no major chronic diseases, cognitive issues or physical impairments after the age of 65. After accounting for various factors that could impact health in older adults, such as education and diet quality, there was a connection between eating nuts and higher odds of healthy aging. When looking at the effect of specific types of nuts, only walnuts were linked with significantly better odds of healthy aging.2 

Breast Cancer: A small pilot clinical trial with ten middle-aged women found those with breast cancer who consumed two daily servings of walnuts (56g) for two weeks experienced beneficial genetic changes related to breast cancer development and growth.3 While this is encouraging research, larger and longer studies are needed before any conclusions can be drawn. 

Mental Health: Researchers have been exploring the link between food and mood and one study showed that consuming about one serving of walnuts (28g) per day may be associated with lower depression symptoms in adults. Walnut consumers tended to have greater interest in activities, higher energy levels, less hopelessness (for women), better concentration and greater optimism, compared to those who didn’t consume nuts. This association appeared to be strongest in women, who are more likely to report greater depression symptoms and use of antidepressants.4 

Maternal Health: A clinical trial showed pregnant women who followed a Mediterranean-style diet including a daily 28g portion of nuts (50% walnuts, 25% almonds, and 25% hazelnuts), and extra virgin olive oil, had a 35% lower risk for gestational diabetes and on average, gained 2.75 pounds less, compared to women who received standard prenatal care. The women in this study were multi-ethnic, inner-city pregnant women with metabolic risk factors, including obesity and chronic hypertension.5

At the end of the day, choosing simple, healthy habits, such as snacking on a handful of walnuts, is a good place to start for overall health.


1Supportive 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. (FDA) One ounce of walnuts offers 18g of total fat, 2.5g of monounsaturated fat, 13g of polyunsaturated fat including 2.5g of alpha-linolenic acid – the plant-based omega-3.
2Freitas-Simoes TM, Wagner M, Samieri C, et al. Consumption of Nuts at Midlife and Healthy Aging in Women. J Aging Res. 2020; Article ID 5651737. doi.org/10.1155/2020/5651737
3Hardman WE, Primerano DA, Legenza MT, Morgan J, Fan J, Denvir J. Dietary walnut altered gene expressions related to tumor growth, survival, and metastasis in breast cancer patients: a pilot clinical trial. Nutr Res. 2019;66:82–94. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2019.03.004
4Arab L, Guo R, Elashoff D. Lower Depression Scores among Walnut Consumers in NHANES. Nutrients. 2019;11(2):275. doi:10.3390/nu11020275
5H Al Wattar B, Dodds J, Placzek A, Beresford L, Spyreli E, Moore A, Carreras FJ, Austin F, Murugesu N, Roseboom TJ, Bes-Rastrollo. 2019 doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002857