Reasons Why Walnuts Are Good For Your Heart

By Naaznin Husein Eminent Dietitian and Founder – Freedom Wellness Management

When it comes to keeping your heart healthy it is very important to have a healthy lifestyle. Cardiovascular disease emerged as India’s top killer around the mid-1980s. Since the turn of the century, it is a growing threat. According to Registrar General of India Report 2016, heart diseases such as blocked artery, pulmonary hypertension, and stroke are the leading killers in India. The report states that 31.6% people die of diseases of the circulatory system that include heart disease and stroke. Twenty-five years of research supported by The California Walnut Commission has concluded that walnuts provide heart-health benefits and that they are one of the first whole foods to receive a qualified health claim about their heart-health benefits from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

What you eat decides the future of your body and therefore a healthy diet may help reduce your risk of heart diseases or deter your current heart condition from worsening. Walnuts help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and decrease blood pressure, two of the major risk factors for heart disease.(2)They are also a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. Walnuts contain 28 grams of ALA per ounce. Research has found that omega-3 fatty acids may decrease the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) in those with high cholesterol.(3)

Most of us are always on a mission to find the healthiest way of eating that helps us feel good and live without pain and inflammation plays a major role in the development of atherosclerosis. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends including four and a half or more cups of fruits and vegetables daily, two or more servings of fish per week, fiber-rich whole grains, and four or more servings a week of nuts, legumes and seeds to help lower one’s risk of heart disease.(5) Adding walnuts is an easy and delicious way to make meals more heart healthy.(1) In fact, AHA has even certified walnuts as a heart-healthy food through its “Heart-Check mark” program.

Here are a few reasons why including walnuts in your diet is a smart choice for you and your heart.

  • For over two decades, walnuts have been shown to improve cardiovascular risk factors by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol by 9-16%, and diastolic blood pressure by 2-3 mmHg.(4) These two risk factors are major contributors to heart disease risk.
  • They are the only nuts that are a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based essential omega-3 fatty acid that has positive anti-inflammatory effects.(3) Research has found that omega-3 fatty acids may decrease the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) in those with high cholesterol.(3) Walnuts contain 2.5 grams of ALA per 28 grams.

So how do you include walnuts in a healthy diet to help lower your risk of heart disease?

  • Include walnuts in meals and snacks, along with a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol.
  • Choose walnuts to snack on four to five times per week. Just a handful of nuts (28 grams) will make you feel satisfied.
  • Sprinkle chopped walnuts on salads, vegetables, in dips, or as part of mixed dishes.
  • Try new recipes using walnuts by going to the California Walnuts recipe page to see how great chefs have used walnuts in heart-healthy recipes.

Always store your walnuts in the refrigerator or freezer so that they stay fresh. And start thinking of walnuts as part of a heart-healthy eating plan – not just for special occasions but as a part of your daily life. Remember that when you include walnuts as part of a healthy eating plan, you are lowering your risk of heart disease.(3)


1FDA approved claim: 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; One ounce of walnuts provides 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.

2Kris-Etherton P. Walnuts decrease risk of cardiovascular disease: a summary of efficacy and biologic mechanisms. J Nutr. 2014; 10: 39:2S-8S.

3Zhao G, Etherton TD, Martin KR, et al. Dietary alpha-linolenic acid reduces inflammatory and lipid cardiovascular risk factors in hypercholesterolemic men and women. J Nutr 2004; 134: 2991-2997.

4Roger VL, Go AS, Lloyd-Jones DM, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics 2012 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation 2012; 125: e2-220.

5Lloyd-Jones DM, Hong Y, Labarthe D, et al. Defining and setting national goals for cardiovascular health promotion and disease reduction. Circulation. 2010; 121: 586-613.