Study reveals walnuts are one of the best nuts for healthy aging
Time and time again, nuts have been shown to confer numerous benefits, such as better heart and brain health, better weight management and protection against chronic diseases, to name a few. Over time, these benefits add up to ensure healthy aging in later life.
While practically any kind of nut will help you age gracefully, a recent study found that one kind of nut, in particular, outshines the rest as a superfood for healthy aging: walnuts.
The international team of researchers behind the study sought to assess nut consumption among older women. Their study included data from nearly 34,000 women in their late 50s and 60s who were part of the Nurses’ Health Study. These women were asked about their diets, physical health and memory. They also received a chronic disease evaluation and were followed for four years.
Women who had sound mental health and no chronic diseases or mental and physical disabilities were defined as “healthy agers.” After four years, these women made up about 16 percent of the participants in the study.
For nut types, the researchers found significantly higher odds of healthy aging across peanuts and walnuts. But after accounting for variables that affect aging, such as physical activity and alcohol intake, only walnut consumption remained associated with healthy aging.
In particular, older women who ate at least two servings of walnuts a week were more likely to be healthy agers than those who didn’t eat as many servings of walnuts or avoided walnuts entirely.
The researchers believe walnuts are able to support healthy aging mainly because of their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats help prevent inflammation, as well as potentially slow down aging. Walnuts also contain powerful plant compounds that can help delay aging, such as phytosterols and polyphenols.
Given their findings, the researchers concluded that women who regularly eat nuts at midlife are more likely to have optimal health and well-being at older ages than those who don’t eat nuts as often. As such, nut consumption appears to be a simple intervention to explore and promote healthy aging.
Walnuts can support brain function in older adults
Walnuts aren’t just great for aging in general. These brain-shaped treats are especially great for aging brains. A recent study by researchers from Texas showed that eating walnuts was associated with greater cognitive ability. This benefit was observed even in people who ate less than a one-ounce serving of the nuts.
For their study, the researchers aimed to analyze the potential link between walnut consumption and cognitive status in older adults. To that end, they conducted telephone interviews to assess cognitive status in some 3,600 adults aged 65 and older. They asked participants basic math, verbal and reasoning questions. They also asked participants about their walnut consumption.
The researchers found that people who ate close to a single one-ounce serving of walnuts per day answered the assessment questions better than those who ate fewer or no walnuts at all per day.
These findings are consistent with existing studies supporting the benefits of walnuts for cognitive abilities like memory and attention.
How to add walnuts to your diet
Walnuts come from trees native to North America. Today, walnut trees are also commonly grown in China and Iran. What we call walnut is the wrinkly, globe-shaped nut inside a walnut fruit.
Walnuts are typically enjoyed raw as healthy snacks, but you can also incorporate them into your go-to recipes. Here are some easy ways to add walnuts to your diet:
- Top your salads with chopped walnuts
- Make homemade granola with a mixture of dried fruits, seeds and nuts, including walnuts
- Use walnuts to make pesto sauce
- Top your yogurt with chopped walnuts and fruits
- Add walnuts to bread batter
Take note that walnuts are prone to becoming rancid because of their high fat content. If you want them to last in storage, keep them in their shells in a cool, dark and dry place.
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