Walnuts: Important Facts, Health Benefits, and Recipes

Alli is a Certified Nutritionist and yoga instructor. She has loved food and nutrition since taking her first health class in the fourth grade. She got her Master of Science in Nutrition and worked in nutrition research at the University of Washington Medical Center for over 8 years.

Explore the health benefits of walnuts, their nutritional information, and delicious recipes featuring this versatile nut, rich in antioxidants, fiber, and plant-based protein.

What are Walnuts?

  • A walnut is the nut of a tree of the family Juglandaceae and is named Juglans regia
  • The Latin name ,Juglansregia, means “Jupiter’s royal acorn.”
  • Walnuts are rounded, single-seeded stone fruits of the walnut tree commonly used for the meat after fully ripening.
  • After it is fully ripened and the husk is removed, the walnut shell is underneath. Once you crack the shell open, the 2 halves are revealed.

Are Walnuts Good For You?

Yes! Walnuts have many health benefits. Walnuts are a good source of polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs): omega-6 fatty acids called linoleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids. (1 ounce = 13g PUFA) and are low in saturated fat. PUFAs may help reduce bad cholesterol levels (LDL) in the blood which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Walnuts are the only tree nut that is a good source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based omega-3 essential fatty acid. A one-ounce serving of walnuts provides 2.5 grams of ALA.

4 Health Benefits Of Walnuts

  1. Walnuts are good for brain health
    1. Early and long-term dietary supplementation with walnuts may help to maintain cognitive functions and may reduce the risk of developing, or delay the onset and/or slow the progression of, MCI (mild cognitive impairment) and dementia.
    2. A study in older adults linked regular consumption of walnuts with significant memory improvement
      1. Conclusion: ​​Polyphenol-rich (plant-based compounds) foods, including olive oil, walnuts, and coffee, in the Mediterranean diet are associated with better cognitive function in elderly subjects at high cardiovascular risk
  2. Walnuts are a good source of antioxidants, concentrated in the skin
    1. The main polyphenol in walnuts is pedunculagin, an ellagitannin. Ellagitannins possess well known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory bioactivity.
  3. Walnuts may help reduce the risk of cancer
    1. Some studies show positive results for cancer prevention when walnuts are consumed
  4. Walnuts are a good source of fiber and plant-based protein (2g fiber, 4g protein) and no cholesterol

History, Background, and General Facts About Walnuts

  • Walnuts originated in Persia and spread through Asia and Europe.
  • They originated in the Mediterranean region and Central Asia and have been part of the human diet for thousands of years.
  • The black walnut has a lot of flavor, but because of its hard shell that makes it difficult to hull, it is not commercially cultivated in orchards.
  • Most of the walnuts in the U.S. are grown in California, but some are grown in the Midwest as well.
  • Pecans and hickory as close relatives to walnuts.
  • The walnut is the most widely-consumed nut in the world and has been eaten for over 8,000 years.
  • The majority of commercial walnuts come from California and China.
  • Walnut meats are available in two forms: in their shells or de-shelled. The meats may be whole, halved, or in smaller portions due to processing.
  • They're eaten as-is after shelling or used in foods like bread, cakes, and sauces for savory dishes
  • All walnuts can be eaten on their own (raw, toasted, or pickled), or as an ingredient of a recipe: muesli, walnut pie , walnut coffee cake , cakes, ice cream, sauces for pasta.
  • Walnuts are sometimes candied or pickled.
  • Walnut oil is an oil with a low smoke point available commercially and is chiefly used as a food ingredient particularly in salad dressings . It has a low smoke point , which limits its use for frying

What Are The Cuisines That Regularly Include Walnuts?

  • United States: chopped walnuts can top a salad, fruit bowls, oatmeal, or yogurt. Roasted walnuts are good in granola, vegetable dishes, wraps, and pasta.
  • Finely chopped or ground walnuts are often added to bread, scones, sauces, and dips (Muhammara - Middle Eastern dip made with roasted red peppers and walnuts)
  • Nocino is an Italian liqueur made from unripe green walnuts steeped in alcohol with syrup added.
  • Walnut husks can be used to make a durable ink for writing and drawing. It is thought to have been used by artists including Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt

What Is The Best Way To Store Walnuts?

  • Due to their high oil content, walnuts can quickly turn rancid and taste very bitter if not stored properly.
  • For long-term storage, it is best to buy unshelled nuts and place them in the refrigerator for two to three months or freeze them up to one year. If using in a short time period you can keep in the pantry.
  • Shelled walnuts should be kept refrigerated in an airtight container, lasting up to six months, and may be frozen up to a year.

What Are The Different Types Of Walnuts?

English walnuts and black walnuts are the two most common varieties . The English walnut (J. regia) originated in Iran ( Persia ), and the black walnut (J. nigra) is native to eastern North America .

Toxicity and Side Effects Of Walnuts

Walnut hulls have a variety of phytochemicals , such as polyphenols that stain hands and can cause skin irritation. Avoid walnuts if you are allergic to tree nuts.

Best Walnuts Recipes