Walnuts are a natural, heart-healthy food1 that have a place in an overall healthy diet.
Although walnuts contain dietary fat, they won’t necessarily make you gain body fat. Walnuts are predominantly made up of good fats, which play an important role in the diet. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends shifting food choices from those high in saturated fats to those high in good unsaturated fats, like those found in walnuts.2
Walnuts can also be part of a healthy diet that won’t contribute to weight gain or hinder weight loss goals.3,4,5 Incorporating them into meals and snacks is a simple and convenient way to add important nutrients to your diet. Not only are walnuts tasty, but they can also be satisfying. One serving of walnuts is one ounce (or about ¼ cup), and offers essential nutrients like plant-based omega-3 ALA, protein, and fiber.6 Additionally, a study from the USDA found that one serving of walnuts (one ounce) may provide 146 calories, which is 39 calories less or 21 percent fewer, than the 185 calories listed in the USDA Nutrient Database.7 The study takes into account the digestibility of walnut pieces and halves, and further research is needed to better understand the results of the study and how this technique for calculating calories could potentially affect the calorie count of other foods.
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1 Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces of walnuts per day, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet, and not resulting in increased caloric intake may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. One ounce of walnuts provides 18g of total fat, 2.5g of monounsaturated fat, 13g of polyunsaturated fat, including 2.5g of alpha-linolenic acid, the plant-based omega-3.
2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.
3 Rock CL, Flatt SW, Pakiz B, et al. Effects of diet composition on weight loss, metabolic factors and biomarkers in a 1-year weight loss intervention in obese women examined by baseline insulin resistance status. Metabolism. 2016;65(11):1605-13.
4 Le T, Flatt SW, Natarajan L, et al. Effects of diet composition and insulin resistance status on plasma lipid levels in a weight loss intervention in women. J Am Heart Assoc. 2016;25;5(1):e002771.
5 Banel DK, Hu FB. Effects of walnut consumption on blood lipids and other cardiovascular risk factors: a meta-analysis and systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;90(1):56-63.
6 One ounce of walnuts contains 2.5 grams of omega-3 ALA, 4 grams of protein, and 2 grams of fiber.
7 Baer DJ, Gebauer SK, Novotny JA. Walnuts consumed by healthy adults provide fewer available calories than predicted by the atwater factors. J Nutr. 2016;146(1):9-13.