Weight loss is key to bodybuilders, athletes and non-athletes alike. Either way, it can be a daunting challenge. While some seem to have an easy time with weight loss, others can have a real challenge maintaining a healthy weight. Research at the San Diego School of Medicine shows that the key to maintaining weight loss may be as simple as a handful of walnuts.
Walnuts? Are you Nuts?
Nope. It’s true. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association says that a handful of walnuts eaten per day can help to maintain your weight. So, how is this done? Researchers surveyed 245 overweight and obese women between the ages of 22 and 72 and put them into one-year program to study their weight loss. The groups were each given random diets from a higher fat diet to a lower fat diet, or diets consisting of high carbs and low carbs, and lastly, a diet consisting of a walnut-rich, higher fat and lower carbohydrate diet. For the group that had the walnuts, they were given a handful each per day. After six months, the women who ate the walnuts lost the most weight. Also, the women had improved cholesterol levels when compared to the other two groups. “Bad cholesterol” took a sharp dive while the “good cholesterol” or HDL cholesterol increased!
What’s the Secret to the Science?
When evaluating the data, the researchers believe that the group that ate the low-carb, high-fat diet group ate foods that were higher in monounsaturated fats, or “good fats” found in foods like avocados, olive oil and walnuts. Foods rich in monounsaturated fats like those found in the Mediterranean Diet can significantly decrease the risk of heart disease and improve blood cholesterol. Here’s the kicker: the walnut-rich diet provided more polyunsaturated fats.
What does that mean? Why should I care?
Here’s what special about walnuts. Walnuts are the only nuts where the fat is polyunsaturated, including a significant amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is a plant-derived form of omega-3 fatty acid, typically found in fish, which is helps the body to improve function. For us to get our dose of omega-3 fatty acid, we need to eat a lot of fish, take fish oil supplements or use products containing omega-3. Walnuts, though, were shown to have these polyunsaturated fats that are like omega-3 fatty acids, providing the same benefits such as improved cardiovascular function and weight loss!
Great! I’ll Go Buy Some Walnuts!
Hold on! Before you head out to the store and buy a week’s worth of walnuts, keep in mind that this study was focused primarily for women— so for women— it’s terrific news! Also, it didn’t measure how the participants stuck to the diet, but from the data provided, it appears that the women were pretty good about “stick-to-it-tive-ness.” Also, it must be pointed out that men did not participate in this study, but this is good news about walnuts in general.
Walnuts, typically, are terrific to use for almost any type of recipe. We, at Team MD, love to top our Mediterranean salads with them along with a glass of red wine for additional benefits. Not to mention, desserts containing avocados provide many benefits for a good, well-rounded diet. Nuts in general have been touted for their many benefits— from peanuts, cashews, pistachios and many others. Also, nuts are a terrific source of all-natural protein, and snacking on a few a day can be beneficial.