February is American Heart Month so I thought I would pass on some healthy tips from Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., R.D., LDN, author of Prevent a Second Heart Attack: 8 Foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease.
Heart Health in a Nutshell: What Walnuts Can Do for You
By Janet Bond Brill Ph.D. R.D., LDN
Walnuts are an ancient plant food that has sustained humans since the dawn of civilization. They are key to heart health because they are a top source of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). ALA is the omega-3 fatty acid derived from plants which our bodies need in addition to the other omega-3 that comes from salmon and other fish. Studies show that people who eat an ALA-rich diet are less likely to suffer a fatal heart attack.
Walnuts (along with flaxseeds) are one of the eight key food groups – – along with olive oil, leafy greens, figs, and other fruits, lentils and other legumes, salmon and other seafood, oatmeal and other whole grains, and red wine – – that are part of my plan to reverse heart disease, or build good heart health to hopefully avoid heart troubles. Dark chocolate is a bonus food in this plan.
Walnuts stand apart from all other types of nuts for two reasons:
- they provide the highest amount of the “vegetarian” omega-3 fatty acid, ALA, and
- they are packed with the most plaque-fighting antioxidants relative to all other nuts
While the thin brown skin that surrounds the walnut meat – – the pellicle – – may taste a bit bitter, this is naturally rich in antioxidant polyphenols, which combat plaque buildup, so try to eat that portion when you eat your walnuts. Walnuts are also naturally rich in vitamin E, the potent healthy antioxidant, concentrated mostly in the nut kernel.
Consuming just a handful of walnuts daily can help:
- Make your dysfunctional endothelium (the damaged inner arterial layer that instigates and promotes heart disease progression) more functional by reducing inflammation and promoting more relaxed and dilated blood vessels.
- Lower your cholesterol (both walnuts and flaxseeds will work together to make a dent in your “bad” LDL cholesterol level).
- Make your blood less likely to clot.
- Lower your blood level of inflammation. Eating walnuts is probably the easiest and tastiest way to incorporate ALA into your day because they can be enjoyed multiple ways: as a handy and portable snack or as an embellishment to any meal.
Here are a few of the ideas I offer in Prevent a Second Heart Attack:
- Keep a bag of shelled walnuts on your kitchen counter and grab some nuts as a quick and healthy snack.
- Sprinkle walnuts on your green salads. (Dr. Janet’s Spinach Salad with Apples, Toasted Walnuts, and Dried Cranberries and Dr. Janet’s Arugla Salad with Figs and Walnuts can be found on page 284 and 285)
- Try candied walnuts – – bake walnuts sprinkled with a little brown sugar for a sweet treat.
- Toss walnuts and dried fruit together in a small plastic bag and you have a super-antioxidant-rich and convenient snack for when you are out and about or even as a late-afternoon pick-me-up.
- Use walnuts in cooking to add taste and nutrition to your favorite dishes.
Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., R.D., LDN, author of Prevent a Second Heart Attack: 8 Foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease, is a diet, nutrition, and fitness expert who has appeared on national television. She is the author of Cholesterol Down: 10 Simple Steps to Lower Your Cholesterol In 4 Weeks Without Prescription Drugs, and specializes in cardiovascular disease prevention.