Walnuts: A Superfood To Prevent Heart Disease

By Naaznin Husein, National Executive Committee Member – Indian Dietetic Association (IDA) – Mumbai Chapter and Founder of Freedom Wellness Management

When it comes to heart health, an overall healthy lifestyle which includes diet, is a necessary foundation. Cardiovascular disease emerged as India’s top cause of death 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% of people die of diseases of the circulatory system that include heart disease and stroke. Consuming walnuts as part of a healthy diet have shown to be beneficial in reducing risk of heart disease. Over twenty five years of research supported by the California Walnut Commission provided the science that led to walnuts being 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.(1,2 )They are also a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. Walnuts contain 2.5 grams of ALA per 28 grams. Research has found that omega-3 fatty acids may decrease the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) in those with high cholesterol. (3)

According to The American Heart Association (AHA), 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 including walnuts, legumes and seeds help lower one’s risk of heart disease.(3)Adding walnuts is an easy and delicious way to make meals more heart healthy.(4) In fact, the AHA has  certified walnuts as a heart-healthy food through its “Heart-Check mark” program.

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

  • Prepare a delicious dip by mixing hung-curd, raisins and walnuts (ground coarsely). Besides making for an irresistible recipe, the dip offers amazing nutritional value. One can also add shredded coconut to walnut paste to give it that extra boost of flavor and texture.
  • Try adding some walnuts into Daliya (broken wheat). Daliya is fiber rich food and walnuts contain powerful antioxidants. Both these nutritional elements play an important role to keep your metabolism and heart healthy.
  • One can also prepare energy bars by mixing walnuts with cranberries for that extra boost while workout. Choose to snack on walnuts, just a handful everyday (28 grams) as a healthy snacking option.
  • Walnuts add great crunch and flavor to salads and pairs beautifully with greens, fruits and various salad dressings, making it an ideal choice while preparing one. They can also be added as a garnish to various dishes making them look and taste better.

Always store your walnuts in the refrigerator or freezer so that they stay fresh. Pledge to include 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.(4) Also, regular exercise regime of 30 minutes every day is essential in maintaining heart health.

SOURCES:
  1. Guasch-Ferré M, Li J, Hu FB, et al. Effects of walnut consumption on bloodlipids and other cardiovascular risk factors: an updated meta-analysis andsystematic review of controlled trials. Am J ClinNutr. 2018;108(1):174-187.doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy091.
  2. Kris-Etherton P. Walnuts decrease risk of cardiovascular disease: a summary of efficacy and biologic mechanisms. J Nutr. 2014; 10: 39:2S-8S.
  3. Zhao 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.
  4. Lloyd-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.