One study that took into account data from over 280,000 people over the course of 20 years found that eating just a small handful of nuts regularly was associated with a lower risk of obesity as people aged compared to those who had a more limited nut intake. And while all nuts have nutritional benefits, a new study points to walnuts in particular as being a great one to go for when it comes to heart health.
Published in the journal Circulation, the study took into account 708 healthy people between the ages of 63 and 79, collecting data over the course of two years. Researchers saw that eating walnuts regularly lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by a full 15 percent—that's a pretty major longevity boost, especially considering that cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S.
Registered dietitian Melissa Rifkin, RD, says the primary reason why walnuts are such a heart health win is because, as the study shows, eating them regularly is linked to lowering LDL cholesterol. She says this primarily because they are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have also been directly linked to a longer lifespan.
Rifkin explains that there are two types of cholesterol, HDL and LDL. "LDL cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein, is considered the 'bad' cholesterol," she says. "It contributes to fat buildup in arteries which is called atherosclerosis. The build-up causes narrowing of the arteries and can increase the risk for heart disease." That's where walnuts can come in: they're linked to lowering this "bad" type of cholesterol.
While a handful of walnuts on their own can of course make a great snack, if you want to get a little creative, check out the walnut recipes rounded up here. They serve as inspo for working the nut into every meal of the day—including dessert!
8 walnut recipes that are good for your heart
1. Cinnamon and walnut porridge
Not only does this recipe have heart-healthy walnuts, it also includes cinnamon—a spice that is linked to keeping blood sugar levels from spiking. Creamy and rich, it's the perfect breakfast for crisp fall mornings.
Get the recipe: cinnamon and walnut porridge
2. Honey nut toasted oat breakfast bites
Chances are, you already have the five ingredients needed to make these bites in your pantry: walnuts, oats, honey, cinnamon, and salt. With protein from the nuts and fiber from the oats, a few of these bites will keep you full until lunch. They're also easy to eat on the go or at your desk—portable breakfasts are always handy!
Get the recipe: honey nut toasted oat breakfast bites
3. Apple walnut salad
Working walnuts into your lunch is a no-brainer. This salad recipe has a total fall vibe, incorporating apples, endives, cranberries, and crumbled gorgonzola cheese.
Get the recipe: apple walnut salad
4. Roasted cauliflower and quinoa salad
In this recipe, walnuts are blended and worked right into a pomegranate dressing. Besides walnuts and pom juice, the dressing is made with blended cauliflower, olive oil, and agave. The end result is a condiment that brings added fiber and heart-healthy benefits to a meal that's already loaded with nutrient value.
Get the recipe: cauliflower and quinoa salad
5. Goat cheese and walnut stuffed figs
This snack may look fancy, but it only takes 15 minutes to make and is so nutrient-rich that it shouldn't be regulated to special occasions. Besides the walnuts, the figs are high in potassium and fiber, while the goat cheese is so full of protein that it will truly keep you satiated until dinner.
Get the recipe: goat cheese and walnut stuffed figs
6. Vegan lentil and walnut tacos
This is seriously so smart: Grind up your walnuts and combine them with lentils to make taco "meat" that's loaded with protein and fiber. Mushrooms and cauliflower are also incorporated into the "meat" blend, upping the fiber even more. Five key spices are used to flavor the mixture and every single one is packed with anti-inflammatory benefits.
7. Vegan sun-dried tomato and walnut tacos
The above episode of Cook With Us also features tacos made with walnut "meat," but it tastes completely different than the one with lentils. In this one, adding sun-dried tomatoes are key for flavor and also giving the meat its chewy texture. Something is does have in common with the other recipe is lots of spices, so make sure your pantry is fully stocked.
8. Carrot walnut cake with cashew frosting
This carrot cake doesn't just incorporate walnuts—cashews are also a core ingredient, blended with coconut cream to form the creamy frosting. Double the nuts, double the health benefits! Another perk to this cake: it's 100 percent vegan.
Get the recipe: carrot walnut cake with cashew frosting
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