Ugh, almonds. We know you’re awesome, OK? Sure, your vitamin count is impressive, you’ve got a hefty dose of fiber, and your flavor is on point. But you don’t have to steal all the glory for yourself—it’s time to spread the love and let the other ultra-healthy nuts shine.
Most specifically, walnuts. It’s no coincidence that they look like the human brain—they’re crazy-good for your mental health, heart, and bones. And it doesn’t hurt that they taste pretty good, too. Here’s why you should be downing walnuts by the handful daily.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Like most nuts, walnuts get the majority of their calories from fat, which also makes them pretty nutrient-dense. One serving contains 113 percent of the daily value of omega-3s, the essential fatty acids our body needs to fight inflammation. Omega-3s are also necessary for keeping hair and skin hydrated and healthy. Walnuts have a lot more of a specific fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) than most nuts, and that’s a good thing, because ALA is supports overall heart health and reduces inflammation.
Minerals and vitamins galore
Copper and manganese are the two most prevalent minerals for building strong bones and tissues, and a serving of walnuts provides more than 50 percent of the daily recommended value of each. Copper combines with dietary iron to create more red blood cells, and helps keep blood vessels, nerves, and bones healthy. Manganese seems to have a serious impact on bone health: In older women, supplementing with manganese prevents spinal bone loss. It can ease the symptoms of PMS, too!
Walnuts also boast impressive levels of phosphorus (another trace element that’s beneficial for bone health), vitamin B6, folic acid, and biotin.
Gym rats, you’re gonna want to pay attention. Interestingly enough, walnuts also contain an amino acid called L-arginine, which you’ll spot on the ingredients list of most pre-workout supplements. L-arginine is crucial for the process of converting nitric oxide for use in the body’s tissues and muscles—N.O. acts as a vasodilator, causing blood vessels to open up even more and allow greater blood flow to muscles, in turn boosting athletic performance and speeding recovery.
All nuts are pretty healthy, yet they tend to get a bad rap for being “fattening.” Sure, they’re calorically dense and do have a fair amount of dietary fat, but multiple studies have shown that when walnuts replace other foods in your diet you’ll actually lose weight. Try swapping out sugary foods, which spike your insulin levels and can cause an increase in belly fat, for a handful of walnuts daily.
Not only do you not have to worry about weight gain when you snack on walnuts (score!), you can rest assured knowing they’re really good for your insides. The nuts contain a unique type of vitamin E called gamma-tocopherol, which provides significant protection against heart problems according to research. Along with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, gamma-tocopherol helps decrease cholesterol, which explains why are recommended by the American Heart Association.
In a study from the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities, a diet high in walnuts significantly improved memory and skill-learning in people with Alzheimer's disease. And because omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for healthy brain development, keeping these nuts close by to munch on during work or school is a great way to boost memory and brain function. Plus, because of their high level of antioxidants and phytonutrients, walnuts can help fight free radicals in the body. Free radicals are responsible for cell oxidization, which can lead to premature aging, skin damage, and other chronic illnesses—including dementia.
Recipes with walnuts
Here’s the thing: You don’t have to eat walnuts naked. Their skin can sometimes be a little bitter (blame it on the higher concentrations of antioxidants found there), but when baked they get softer and a little sweeter. Blending them in the food processor—or throwing them into a morning smoothie—yields a smooth, creaminess that’s not unlike almond butter! Here are a few of our favorite recipes featuring this nutritional powerhouse.
Morning Glory Muffins
A baked good you won’t feel guilty starting your morning with? Sold. These are full of fiber and are gluten-free and Paleo friendly—so they’ll energize you and keep you fuller for longer.
Warm Oat Bars With Raspberry Jam
Thick, nutty oat bars with a ribbon of slightly tart raspberry jam running through the center make a decadent dessert or afternoon treat.
Superfood Breakfast Cookies
Want the perfect healthy on-the-go breakfast? Whip up a batch of our crunchy-chewy cookies loaded with oats, nuts, and superfood berries.
Gluten-Free Banana Bread
The all-time reigning champ of the Thrive Market test kitchen—make a loaf and watch how fast it disappears! (Even walnut-haters will become converts after one perfectly moist bite.)
Paleo-Cherry Vanilla Granola
No oats, no problem. Walnuts make for a hearty, filling base in a crunchy grain-free granola. Pro tip: Drizzle with coconut milk for a spoonful of heaven.
Lunch and Dinner
It ain’t mystery meat—surprisingly, our take on a traditional dinner favorite gets its umami flavor and density from chopped walnuts and sun-dried tomatoes.
Goat Cheese and Fig Pasta
Have 15 minutes? Then you’ve gotta make this pasta dish for dinner.
Pork Chops with Smoky Walnut Romesco
A spicy, creamy Romesco sauce upgrades pork chops from everyday to elegant.
Vegan Eggplant Tacos
Walnuts play the part of ground beef so well, even meat-lovers won’t miss the filling in a lightened-up take on classic tacos.
Baked Brie Topped With Fruit and Nut Compote
You say, “Can a full brie wheel be considered a snack?” We say, “Challenge accepted.”
Roasted Red Pepper Veggie Dip
When ranch just doesn’t cut it, this dairy-free red pepper dip swoops in and wins all the crudite plates.
Chocolate-Covered Dates with Mexican Spiced Nuts
A lil’ sweet, a lil’ spicy—and 100% tasty.
Double Chocolate Brownie Bites
With less than 10 ingredients, you can make the fudgiest, chocolatiest, gooiest brownies ever—and they’re vegan.
Yes, the filling is insanely rich and perfect for chocolate lovers … but it’s the buttery, walnut crust that will have you coming back for seconds (or thirds!).
Gluten-Free Chocolate Walnut Cookies
No flour needed for these bad boys—and because they’re mostly egg whites and sugar, they’re light like macarons but fudgey like brownies. So basically, they’re perfect in every way.
Tahini Date Cookies
Think of them as an elevated peanut butter cookie—with tahini as the star of the show, they’re chewy, sweet, and a little salty.
Sugar-Free Walnut Date Candy
Moroccan-inspired five-ingredient candy is straight-up beautiful—perfect for a hostess gift. Or to keep for yourself. You do you.
Gluten-Free Carrot Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting
Last, but certainly not least, carrot-cake cupcakes. Anytime we can sneak vegetables and healthy fats into dessert, we’re happy. These are no exception.
So step aside, almonds, peanuts, cashews—it’s time to give walnuts their time in the spotlight!
Photo credit: Paul Delmont