Move over pecans. You’ve been unseated by the walnut for the nut highest in antioxidants. Pecans once carried this coveted distinction, but according to a study, walnuts have the highest level of top-quality antioxidants of any nut tested. One more reason to eat walnuts.
Why eating walnuts is healthy
In a study presented at the American Chemical Society meeting, researchers looked at the amount and quality of antioxidants in nine different nuts including pecans, cashews, macadamias, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, pistachios, almonds, walnuts and peanuts. All of these nuts are high in antioxidants, but walnuts stood out by having almost twice the antioxidants as other common nuts.
Previous research showed that pecans were the highest in antioxidants after scientists found they earned a whopping 17,940 on the ORAC scale, a measure of antioxidant capacity – but according to this data walnuts not only have more antioxidants, but they’re of higher quality than other nuts.
The truth is you can’t go wrong eating either of these two antioxidant-rich nuts – or any nut for that matter. The antioxidants in nuts aren’t the only ingredient that protects against heart disease. When you eat walnuts and other tree nuts you get “good fats” like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that help to lower cholesterol levels and provide a healthy dose of fiber.
How to get the health benefits of eating walnuts
To get the heart-healthy benefits of eating walnuts, munch on small handful of nuts – about 14 walnut halves a day. Walnuts are calorie-dense, but 14 walnut halves only have about 185 calories. Walnuts contain a form of vitamin E called gamma-tocopherol that may be particularly helpful for lowering the risk of heart disease. One type of healthy fat in walnuts called alpha-linolenic-acid is converted to heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which is an additional plus for heart health, but this conversion is inefficient – so don’t give up fish.
The bottom line
All nuts have antioxidant benefits, but walnuts stand out because of their high levels of good quality antioxidants. Unfortunately, people are more likely to snack on peanuts, almonds or cashews – not walnuts. So, do yourself a favor, and munch on a small handful of walnuts as a snack. It’ll do your heart good.