The Health Benefits of Walnuts – A True "Super Food"

By Michael A. Smith, MD

The Greeks called the walnut “the nut of Jupiter,” fit for the gods. Native to Persia, walnuts now come from California, which has over 122,000 acres of walnut trees. The tree itself is very hardy and is 15 years old before reaching full production. The average tree produces for 45 years.

Walnuts are high in unsaturated, fatty acids, iron, and B vitamins. The oil in walnuts has a tendency to absorb strong odors, so they should be kept in cold storage. Manufacturers of syrup toppings, ice cream, candy, casseroles and baking products all rely on walnuts.

Although many nuts have proven to be really beneficial to your health, studies are showing that walnuts contain almost twice as many antioxidants as other nuts. And that’s not just an interesting statistic — all of those antioxidants really do your body a lot of good. Below, we’ll take a look at two big stand-out benefits of walnuts.

Walnuts Boost Brain Power

Since there’s a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts, they’re excellent for brain health. Your brain consists mostly of structural fats that are critical for normal brain cell function. For this reason, walnuts really are “brain food.”

The American diet is almost devoid of all omega-3s, with researchers finding that about two-thirds of Americans are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. This lack of omega-3 fat can make it tough for the brain to function at a high level.

A study done at Purdue University showed that children with a lower concentration of omega-3 fatty acids have a higher risk of hyperactivity, learning disorders, and behavioral problems.1 There have actually been hundreds of scientific studies signifying a variety of problems linked to omega-3 deficiencies.

Walnuts Will Keep Your Ticker Ticking

The most in-depth side of walnut research has been around the benefits they offer for the heart and circulatory system. They have had a very favorable impact on vascular reactivity, which is the ability of our blood vessels to respond to stimuli in a healthy way.2

Walnuts contain high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, which is a major contributor to heart health. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reviewed the heart health benefits of walnuts on 365 participants who were monitored during control diets and diets supplemented with walnuts. Results showed the walnut eating group to have a significantly greater decrease in total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL).3

Even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently cleared the health claim that eating 1.5 ounces per day of walnuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.4 This is the first time a whole food, not its isolated components, has shown this beneficial effect on vascular health.

Other Healthy Nuts - It Runs in the Family

While walnuts may be the healthiest nuts on the planet, many other nuts can be extremely beneficial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The following table comes from the August 2011 issue of Life Extension® Magazine.

Most beneficial to keeping your heart healthy and lowering cholesterol.5
Lower blood pressure and may prevent prostate and breast cancers.6
One of the best sources of vitamin E.
Brazil Nuts
One of the best sources of magnesium.
Contain two unique antioxidants not found in other nuts, and promote heart and eye health.7
Table: Healthy Nuts and their Benefits

A Word of Caution — Don’t Go Too Nuts

Remember — walnuts are very high in calories. This means you should incorporate walnuts into your normal meals and avoid using them as regular snacks. Eating many of them throughout the day could easily sabotage your diet. The best way to benefit from walnuts is to substitute them for other calories so that your total daily calorie intake is not increased.

Also, be careful how you store walnuts; if they’re not properly stored, they can become rancid. For long-term storage, it is best to buy unshelled nuts and store them in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 months or freeze them for up to 1 year.

Shelled walnuts should be kept refrigerated in an airtight container, and they can be frozen for up to 1 year. For reference, 1 pound of walnuts will yield about 2 cups of nutmeat.

Recipe: Herb and Honey Walnut Crusted Salmon

This crunchy, sweet and flavorful salmon recipe comes from the web site.8 Give it a try and let us know how what you think:


  • 1 ½ lbs. salmon fillets
  • Freshly ground sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons stone ground mustard
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basil or tarragon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped California walnuts
  • 4 cups baby arugula or spring mix greens
  • 2 tablespoons each: extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F and spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Remove skin from salmon and cut into 4 pieces.
  3. Place on baking sheet and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Stir together the mustard, honey, herbs and garlic and spread over the top and sides of the salmon.
  5. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons walnuts over each fillet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the surface of the salmon flakes easily with a fork.
  6. Toss greens with oil and vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Place on 4 plates and top each with a salmon fillet.
Once you complete all the steps - bon appétit!

Were you aware of the health benefits that walnuts offer? Do you incorporate them into your own diet? Share your take in the comments!


  1. Available at:
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  3. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jul;90(1):56-63.
  4. Available at:
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Anonymous said...

This is very excellent- wooooaaa brain food!

Anonymous said...

Definitely going to make this recipe! Thanks! More than one super food in it.

justmebenel said...

Very good article about walnuts, I enjoyed reading. When searching earlier I also found an interesting guide that answered the question are walnuts good for you. I am going to start eating these every day now.

Anonymous said...

Very very very interesting .......... I really like the info on Pistashios.

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous- We’re glad you liked it!

Cosmetic Surgeries said...

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LifeExtension said...

Cosmetic Surgeries - We're glad it hit the spot! Thanks for reading. :)

Anonymous said...

isn't it weird how the walnut looks exactly like a brain complete with a skull,and the health benefits are amazing ,i was suffering from anxiety and many sleepless nights but after just a week of eating a hand full of this wonderful brain food my problems were over .

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous - Yes! It's funny how a walnut looks just like a brain. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. :)

Anonymous said...

walnuts are awesome for you, so many benefits. Cashews are high in Magnesium like brazil nuts. Walnuts are so good in salads too, especially with blu cheese, tomatoes, feta, cranberry's, & walnuts with a bunch of baby greens. So yummy. Thanks for sharing.

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous - Good points! Thank you

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Jim said...

The reason walnuts have so many anti-oxidants is because they need them! They have such a high level of polyunsaturated fat that they would quickly go rancid otherwise. They are particularly rich in the Omega-6 fatty acid Linoleic Acid, which means if you eat just 1 oz (28 grams) of walnut nutmeats, you need nearly 1 gram of EPA and/or DHA from fish oil to get back to good balance between Omega-6 and Omega-3. The idea that substituting polyunsaturated fat for saturated fat is beneficial is still held by epidemiologists like Walter Willett but is never borne out by clinical research. Indeed, look around you. Most people in the USA are avoiding saturated fat and eating a lot of Omega-6. Do you see a healthy population?

LifeExtension said...

Jim - Excellent points Jim! Well said. :-)

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Help With Dissertation - Glad you liked it. Thanks for reading. :-)

health benefits of nuts said...

walnuts are really great for good health. even all the nuts. I hav read somewhere that walnuts help in fighting prostate cancer.

Life Extension said...

health benefits of nuts - Yes, you're right. There is researching showing walnuts may help to fight prostate cancer.

Unknown said...

Love the recipes and the brain heart smart info!!!

Life Extension said...

Penny Baumann - Glad you do. Thanks for reading!

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Anonymous said...

Don't forget also: two Brazil nuts a day keeps the selenium doctor away.

Life Extension said...

Anonymous - Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium. Good tip!

Anna Wright said...

That’s excellent advice. Will try it for sure. I am looking forward to more articles like these and is hopeful of positive results.

Life Extension said...

Anna Wright - Thanks! We're glad you enjoyed the post!

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Thank you, Allison! We're glad!

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