Walnuts are so powerful with nutrients that eating a handful of them could provide almost instant protection from heart disease.
In a study, only four hours after participants consumed either shelled walnuts or walnut oil, scientists found ‘significant’ improvement in cholesterol levels and blood vessel flexibility, which helps blood flow through the body smoothly.
The researchers showed that eating walnuts regularly may protect against cardiovascular disease in the long term.
Dr Penny Kris-Etherton, professor of nutrition at Penn State University in Pennsylvania said, ‘Just a handful could help significantly reduce the risk of heart disease,’
‘Eating shelled walnuts or some walnut oil four times a week will certainly provide very significant benefits.’
The study was the first to identify which parts of the walnut provide the health boost, she said.
The 15 participants, all with high blood cholesterol consumed two handfuls of shelled walnuts (85g), six grams of walnut skin, 34g of the nutmeat with the fat removed, or three tablespoons of walnut oil (51g). Then they checked their responses 30 minutes, one hour, two hours, four hours and six hours after. The scientist concluded that using walnut oil once improved blood vessel health after only four hours.
‘Our study showed that the oil found in walnuts can maintain blood vessel function after a meal,’ said lead author Claire Berryman, a graduate student in nutritional sciences at Penn State. ‘The walnut oil was particularly good at preserving the function of endothelial cells.’
Endothelial cells, which line the blood vessels throughout the body, is very important for blood vessel flexibility.
Miss Berryman added: ‘Implications of this finding could mean improved dietary strategies to fight heart disease.’