Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins B-1, B-2, and B-3, Vitamin-E and niacin, the health benefits of walnuts and/or were first identified in 1931 when researchers discovered that they were a significant source of vitamin C. Since then numerous studies been done to evaluate the effects of walnut and walnut oil consumption on disease prevalence, mortality, and disease risk factors. It is now well established that eating walnuts regularly has definite health benefits, the most important on being a reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease. Walnuts are also rich in phytonutrients and are an excellent source of selenium, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, iron, and calcium
In order to get these benefits it is important for the walnuts to be uncooked and fresh. Awakening and curing the walnuts is the best way to achieve this. The serving size of walnut oil is less than the amount of walnuts needed to get the same nutritional benefit.
For example: A 35 gram serving of walnut oil provides the same nutritional benefits as 50 grams of walnuts.
Consumption of walnuts or walnut oil has been shown to lower total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol) and the ratio of LDL to HDL (good cholesterol). Furthermore, regular walnut oil consumption reduced triglyceride levels 19 to 33% in a 45-day study. In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration stated:
“Supportive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces per day of walnuts, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”
The high concentration of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is an omega-3 fatty acid that is converted to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and omega-3 fatty acids (which are easily utilized by the body) are the reason walnut oil has cardio-protective benefits. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that one tablespoon of walnut oil provides 1.4 grams of ALA. Men require 1.6 grams and women 1.1 grams of ALA per day. Walnuts differ from other nuts because they primarily consist of omega-3 fatty acids whereas monounsaturated fats are found in higher levels in most other types of nuts.
Walnuts and walnut oil have been cited as one of the best antioxidant sources among the tree nuts. Antioxidants are substances that counter the effects of free radicals, which are substances that cause cell damage and accelerate the aging process. Walnuts are especially dense in the antioxidant ellagic acid, which aids in controlling the replication of malignant tumors and has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antiseptic properties. Gallic acid and malic acid, both antioxidants, are present in smaller quantities and have similar protective effects. This demonstrates yet again that nutrition is best derived from whole foods verses liquid vitamins and other vitamin supplements.
Studies show regular use of walnut oil provides a dietary source of essential fatty acids and antioxidants, both of which are often difficult to attain in adequate quantities within a typical Western diet. The practical benefits of this regular use are significant reductions in coronary heart disease risk and possible decreases in cancer risk and slowing of the aging process.
To use walnut oil in your cooking remember it is best used uncooked in cold sauces, salads, tossed in pasta, or brushed on grilled fish or meat just before serving. It is also great in desert recipes for a nutty flavor!