Eat Walnuts: Handful a Day is ‘as Effective as a Low Fat Diet’

Women who ate just over a handful every day for six months lost an average of nearly eight per cent of their initial weight
It’s interesting that unlike other diet groups, those who ate nuts improved cholesterol reading

If you want to lose weight, forget the salads and green tea – it seems walnuts may be the key.

Eating a diet rich in walnuts and olive oil can lead to the same amount of weight loss as a lower fat, higher carbohydrate diet, that was found by scientists.
And they say that there is even a better thing, the walnuts, which are rich in polyunsaturated fats, are beneficial to heart health and lower cholesterol.
The study recommends eating a handful of them a day.

Study author Dr Cheryl Rock, of the San Diego School of Medicine at the University of California, said she was surprised by the results. ‘One of the surprising findings of this study was even though walnuts are higher in fat and calories, the walnut-rich diet was associated with the same degree of weight loss as a lower fat diet. ‘Considering the results of this study, as well as previous walnut research on heart health and weight, there’s something to be said for eating a handful of walnuts a day.’

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The team studied 245 overweight and obese women aged between 22 and 72, who were enrolled in a one-year weight loss programme to come to this finding and this conclusion.They were randomly assigned to three different diets: a lower carbohydrate and higher fat diet, or a walnut-rich, a lower fat and higher carbohydrate diet; higher fat and lower carbohydrate diet. Those prescribed to a walnut-rich diet consumed around 43g (1.5 ounces) of the nuts a day – about a handful and a half. And the results came after six months of survey, those eating a walnut-rich diet lost similar amounts of weight to the other groups – but also showed more improvements in their cholesterol levels when compared to the other two groups.

As the most assume, the level of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol fell, while ‘good’ HDL cholesterol increased. This was especially noticeable and expected in the women who were insulin-resistant, a precursor of diabetes. The researchers believe that the key to these findings, is that the low-carb high-fat diet group were encouraged to consume foods higher in monounsaturated fats, found in a variety of foods and oils.

The one thing that improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease the risk of heart disease is eating foods rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, the studies show.

However, what diet provided more polyunsaturated fats was the walnut-rich diet.

Walnuts are the only nut in which the fat is primarily polyunsaturated, including a significant amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). So you wonder what is ALA? ALA is the plant-derived form of omega-3 fatty acid, which is essential to the body’s healthy functioning. The body must be wholly obtained from the diet, because cannot make omega-3 itself, and that means that many of us are deficient.

However, Dr Rock conceded there were some limitations to the study, and that the results may not be generalizable to men, because it only included women. In addition, it did not measure adherence to the diets, although it seems the women stuck to them considering their weight loss. ‘In addition to these findings, we hope to explore the effect of walnuts on satiety, as we believe satiety is a critical factor for maintaining weight loss,’ Dr Rock concluded.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, comes shortly after research from Harvard also showed the health benefits and all good things that can happen to the body, after consuming polyunsaturated fats.

The study suggested that people may live longer and have a lower risk of heart disease if they replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats.

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