Walnuts (Akhrot) : The nutritious secret to birthing a brainy baby!

Updated: Nov 16, 2020

Walnuts are one of the very common ingredients in our daily life. We consume walnuts in chocolates, cakes, cookies, etc. Even though they have a slightly bitter taste, people love them. Akhrot (walnuts) found favour with the Romans as far back as 700 B.C and were considered food fit for the Gods. Though little was known about the nutritional facts and benefits of walnuts then, the English carried it on their ships and traded it across the world. In India, walnuts are grown in the Kashmir valley and are world famous for their taste, colour and nutritional value.

Walnuts are one of the few superfoods that can directly affect neuro-cognitive functioning – in short, what you see (the little brain shaped nut) is what you get (a better brain)!

Walnuts are really great for the skin and the body. Many makeup and skin care brands include walnuts in their ingredients as they are rich in nutrients that benefit our beauty routines. They are also sought after for hair care. Many shampoos contain walnut extracts and walnut oil as they keep the hair healthy and make them shiny.

Health Benefits Of Walnuts

1. Controlling cholesterol levels : Walnuts control cholesterol levels and improve the functioning of your heart. They help in decreasing LDL (bad cholesterol) and improving the function of blood vessels. They also cut the risk of plaque buildup in arteries.

2. Maintaining blood pressure: Walnuts helps to balance and maintain blood pressure which is vital during pregnancy. Pregnant women are susceptible to high blood pressure in the third trimester which can be extremely dangerous and lead to miscarriages, premature birth and low birth weight. Eating just 20-30 grams of walnuts daily can effectively combat these problems.

3. Boosting Immunity: Walnuts have high amounts of antioxidants in them that keep your immune system healthy and prevent the onset of diseases. Add some walnuts to your diet every day to keep yourself fit as a fiddle.

4. Improving Brain Health: Walnuts are high in neuroprotective compounds like Vitamin E, Melatonin, Folate and the all important Omega 3 Fatty acids. All these directly benefit cognitive functioning – which includes memory, attention, concentration, thinking and creativity. So, when our mothers told us to pop a few walnuts during our exams, they were spot on.

Walnuts contain Omega 3 fatty acids which reduces oxidative stress in the brain and helps improve brain signaling and neurogenesis – the creation of neurons. Eating walnuts during pregnancy is extremely beneficial for the brain of the tender fetus. Expecting mothers can pop just 4-5 kernels daily and give their child a head start. Not to mention that walnuts have been linked to better brain function in adults also including faster processing speed, more mental flexibility and better memory.

5. For Breast Cancer: The American Association For Cancer Research has published in its 2009 research volume that consuming a few walnuts each day can help reduce the risk of breast cancer.

6. For Inflammatory Diseases: Those with inflammatory diseases like asthma, arthritis and eczema can benefit from walnuts as they have high amounts of fatty acid in them.

7. For Bone Health: Walnuts contain an essential fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid. This alpha-linolenic acid and its compounds have been associated with stronger and healthier bones. Also, as you intake omega-3 fatty acids through walnuts, inflammation decreases, and this is related to keeping the bones stronger for a longer duration.

8. For Better Sleep and Stress: Walnuts have melatonin, and this compound is said to be associated with better sleep patterns. Also, the omega-3 fatty acids keep the blood pressure low and help relieve stress.

9. For Pregnancy: Having a walnut daily can greatly benefit those who are expecting. Walnuts contain healthy vitamin B-Complex groups like folates, riboflavin, thiamin, etc. These are necessary for a pregnant woman and the fetus.

10. For Constipation And Digestive System: Walnuts are rich in fiber, and they are a great way to keep your digestive system functioning properly. All humans require fiber on a daily basis to keep their bowels functioning correctly. Usually, the common sources of protein, such as meat and dairy products, lack fiber. Having walnuts daily can help you with digestive problems and keep your bowels functioning properly.

11. For Internal Cleaning: Walnuts are your internal vacuum cleaners as they literally cleanse the digestive system of uncountable parasites. As a designated superfood on account of its nutrient content, the snack food is beneficial to heart health and weight loss as well.

We call it strictly snack food because walnuts should be taken in minimal quantities each day. Moderation truly is the key for this nutrient powerhouse, if you want to avoid allergies or unforeseen health conditions.

12. For Curing Fungal Infections: There is no better way to cleanse yourself of fungus inside-out than with walnuts. Candida growth in the digestive system and fungal infections occurring on the skin are both highly aggravating. These infections create a range of uncomfortable symptoms, from releasing toxins to itching. Walnuts are effective against fungal outgrowths, on par with other treatments available.

13, Delays Skin Aging: Walnuts are good for the skin as they are packed with B-vitamins. Vitamin B is an excellent stress and mood manager. Lower stress levels result in a better skin. Increased stress levels can result in the earlier onset of wrinkles, thus inducing faster aging. The presence of the B-vitamins, together with Vitamin E, a natural antioxidant, helps in fighting the free radicals induced due to stress. This further delays the aging process.

Nutrition facts and calories of Walnuts

Walnuts can be purchased whole or shelled. A whole walnut can be fun to crack by placing them in door jambs or more effectively by using a walnut cracker. Shelled walnuts are of course less work.

For every 100 grams of walnuts you get:

• 654 calories

• 4% water

• 15.2g proteins

• 13.7g carbohydrates

• 2.6g sugar

• 6.7g fiber

• 65.2g fat

• 9.08g Omega 3

• 38.09g Omega 6

• 1.2mg vitamin C

Walnuts contain about 65% fat content which makes them an extremely high-calorie energy dense food – if you’re running a marathon or planning a hike, they are the most nutritious nut to stash in your pocket.

Walnuts are also high in minerals like copper, phosporous, Vitamin B6, Vitamin E, Manganese, and Folic acid. The folic acid is vital for pregnant women and prevents many birth defects.

Eating and Cooking Walnuts

30 grams of walnuts equals approximately 12-14 halves (kernels) or a small handful of walnuts. Around 15 grams or 6-7 kernels daily consumption of walnuts is enough for the average human adult. Children can be given 3-4 kernels daily.

The Indian Kashmiri walnuts are light brown in colour and are the most commonly used. While walnuts have a slight bitter taste to them, if stored for too long in equatorial climates they can become too bitter and even release oils. Ideally they should be stored in the refrigerator.

Walnuts can be eaten raw or roasted. They can be chopped and sprinkled on salads and are very popular in desserts. Oatmeal with walnuts and raisins is an extremely nutritious breakfast option. Walnuts can also be added to any kind of stuffing. Candied walnuts are often used to top off ice creams and brownies and provide the extra crunch. Walnuts can also be finely ground and added to dips and chutneys. Roasted walnuts make a great addition to any kind of trail mix or nutrition bars. You can even use cold pressed walnut oil as a dressing for your salads.

Risks and Side Effects of Walnuts

While enough cannot be said about the benefits and nutrition value of walnuts some caution is also to be exercised.

Walnuts are one of the eight most allergenic foods identified globally. In addition, the allergic reaction can be quite severe and even lead to anaphylaxis which can be fatal. Walnut allergies are identified early in childhood in most people. Pregnant women need to exercise extreme caution if they have never eaten walnuts or are unsure of their tolerance.

In some cases walnuts have even been found to reduce absorption of minerals especially iron which can be harmful for pregnant women.

The bottom line however is that walnuts are a super food. If you do not have a walnut allergy, they are the supreme addition to your daily diet. They are easily available, require zero cooking time, provide numerous benefits and have a high nutritional value.

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