To date, at least five large epidemiological studies have demonstrated that frequent consumption of nuts decreases the risk of coronary artery disease. One study found an inverse association between nut consumption and sudden cardiac death or heart attack. Overall, people who eat nuts five or more times a week had a 15 to 51 percent reduction in coronary heart disease. And amazingly, even people who ate nuts just once a month had some reduction. Especially true is that walnuts and heart health go hand-in-hand.
One of the main contributors to heart health in nuts, particularly in walnuts, is the omega-3 fatty acids. This particular component of fat works in various ways to help guarantee a healthy heart and circulatory system. Like aspirin, omega-3s “thin” the blood, helping it to flow freely and preventing clots from forming and adhering to the vessel walls. Omega-3s also act as an anti-inflammatory, preventing the blood vessels from becoming inflamed—a condition that reduces blood flow.
Walnuts are also rich in arginine, which is an essential amino acid. Arginine helps to keep the inside of the blood vessels smooth while it also promotes the flexibility of the vessels, thus increasing blood flow, reducing blood pressure, and thereby alleviating hypertension. Walnuts’ omega-3 content is the highest of all nuts as well.
It’s interesting to note that while the beneficial fatty acid composition of nuts accounts for some of their positive effects on blood lipids, thus benefiting heart health, this does not take in the whole picture. In addition to the known health-promoting factors in nuts, there are other elements we have yet to identify. We know about the omega-3s, the B vitamins, magnesium, polyphenols, potassium, and vitamin E, but the unknown elements also contribute in lowering cholesterol levels and promoting heart health.