It appears that there may be another reason to incorporate walnuts into your diet. A clinical study published in the October 17, 2006 edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, suggests that walnuts, rich in polyunsaturated fats, may protect the body’s arteries from the harm associated with eating a meal high in saturated fat.
Adding olive oil, known for its monounsaturated fats, does not appear to provide the same type of vascular benefits.
Consumption of a meal high in saturated fat typically causes an inflammatory response in the body that negatively impacts the ability of the arteries to carry necessary blood to tissue and organs and promotes the formation of artery clogging plaque. This response was limited by adding walnuts to such a meal.
“Many people forget that walnuts are an important part of the Mediterranean diet, providing numerous health benefits,” said Dr. Emilio Ros, director of the Lipid Clinic at Hospital Clinico in Barcelona, Spain. In fact, “walnuts, unlike olive oil and other nuts, contain significant amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids, specifically alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential plant based omega-3. They also provide antioxidants and L-arginine, components identified in past studies as potential nutrients that improve artery function,” noted Ros.
The findings of this study should not give consumers the green light to consume a diet high in saturated fat. “Consumers would get the wrong message from our findings if they think they can continue eating unhealthy fats provided they add walnuts to their meals,” said Ros. Instead, he believes that “people should consume a typical Mediterranean diet low in saturated fats and high in foods containing polyunsaturated fats, such as walnuts.”